Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
“Death” one of 5 ways to lose at Chess, according to PGN standard (saremba.de)
155 points by heydemo 66 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments

"death": losing player called to greater things, one hopes.

An inspiringly optimistic spiritual outlook from the PGN standard, so thank you for that.

Technically, over the board one could just wait until their deceased opponent flags to claim a win, but in practice, for every occasion I'm aware of in high level tournament play, the remaining player will adjudicate the game honestly according to their evaluation of the position -- even if that means resigning out of respect for his or her opponent. See Karapanos-Zoler (2009), or Meier-Niyizibi from the 2014 Olympiad [1].

One more thing to note is that playing high level chess is in fact a strenuous activity; one grandmaster playing while wearing a heart monitor recorded burning 560 calories in two hours. [2] Top players like Carlsen or Caruana keep themselves in peak physical condition in addition to their chess preparation.

And although chess players as a demographic may have certain increased predispositions to conditions like Asperger's, schizophrenia, or cardiovascular diseases (likely due to the sedentary nature of the game), I'll relay something one older player once commented to me: that he has never found a documented case of a high level tournament chess player succumbing to Alzheimer's disease.

[0] https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1554879

[1] https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1771703

[2] https://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/27593253/why-grandmaste...

I don't think that's too surprising, I doubt you can play chess at a high level with early stages of Alzheimer's.

I think what they meant was that they’d never heard of someone who was at any point in time a high level chess player eventually succumbing to Alzheimer’s.

I'm not sure what to conclude of that though. Does it mean that playing high level chess lower risks of contracting Alzheimer's or does it mean that people with low Alzheimer's risks have higher chance to become high level chess players?

It might also mean that high-level chess players contract Alzheimer's at the normal rate, but it goes undiagnosed because their lower functioning still seems fine to everyone else.

Or, high level chess players identify so strongly with their intellect that in the face of dementia they retreat into isolation (or even suicide) where they don’t become a data point. Correlations can come from anywhere.

We know a bunch of other intellectual capabilities have mitigating effects on mental decline, presumably because they exercise brain plasticity which will then later be called into play as things fail.

For example being multi-lingual is reported to help.

Or he simply forgot.

  checkmate (n.) mid-14c., in chess, said of a king when it is in check and cannot escape it, from Old French eschec mat (Modern French échec et mat), which (with Spanish jaque y mate, Italian scacco-matto) is from Arabic shah mat "the king died" (see check (n.1)), which according to Barnhart is a misinterpretation of Persian mat "be astonished" as mata "to die," mat "he is dead." Hence Persian shah mat, if it is the ultimate source of the word, would be literally "the king is left helpless, the king is stumped."
If checkmate is the death of the Shah, death is a common ending. If you also consider the other pieces it's usually a massacre.

And "shahmaty" is what chess is called in Russian – шахматы. The expression for check and mate is shah i mat (шах и мат) also, but "shah" (шах) in Russian sounds almost exactly like the word for a step (шаг) – it sounds a bit like saying here is my final step, my final move.

Growing up, I thought that's where the expression came from, and had no clue it was from Arabic! Thanks for this.

So it does mean that the chess assumes that the king is never “killed”? It always stood out to me as, what I assumed to be medieval code of conduct that required not killing kings (killing queens is ok)

That it is called a queen is also cultural, in Russia, Arabic speaking countries etc it is not a queen but a called a vizier or similar (a high ranking official). Looks like the Europeans changed to queens in their interpretation of chess.

Here in India I've heard both: 'queen' and sometimes, 'minister'.

From a historical lens "queen" is very odd nomenclature. The queen was certainly not the most powerful unit on a battlefield. I doubt more than a handful of prominent queens have ever been on the battlefield at all.

The queen was also historically not such a very powerful chess piece. The rule that the queen roams freely in all directions on the board was established, in her honour, when Queen Isabella I of Castile reigned.

It's also called a "flag" in some places.

You can think of it this way: the goal is to kill the king, but the last two half-moves are trivial, so they are not actually played.

This occurred in a game of mine.

I play(ed) international correspondence chess. The games can go on for years. In one of my games, my opponent sadly passed away. The game was adjuticated to a draw nine months after we had started.

I did not have much personal connection with my opponent or interaction beyond our moves and an initial greeting, but it was obviously an extremely sad way for the game to end.

Edit: the termination string in my game was actually that of a draw by adjudication, but I do want to make it clear that a death during a chess game is not as uncommon as one might expect.

Im not familiar with chess - why do some games last that long? Or was it multiple games?

It’s one game that lasts so long.

This was traditionally played by players exchanging moves via letters sent by post.

Naturally people use the internet more these days, but with a lot of time allowed between moves to keep the slow pace of correspondence chess.

Allowing this amount of time between moves completely changes the character of the game. There’s ample time of deep analysis and research. There’s more incentive to leave the beaten track if you need to push for a win.

It’s an extremely different game to over-the-board chess.

> Allowing this amount of time between moves completely changes the character of the game. There’s ample time of deep analysis and research.

It can also end in chaos: https://maxxwolf.tripod.com/woody.html

Oh interesting, thanks for the explanation!

There are other games which can lost pretty long. Online strategy multiplayer games like Dominions 5 or other PBEM games (play by email) can last for months as each turns is allowed a day and there are 60-80 turns in an average game.

  "death": losing player called to greater things, one hopes.
It's not often that a standard written by committee leads me to ruminate on the nature of life.

Please never show these rules to a general AI and ask it to win a chess match...

Unless you implement Asimov's first law of robotics.

You still have to worry about the Zeroth law.

The Zeroth law, which permits a robot to harm individuals if it's good for the collective humanity, is certainly cause for concern. But it's scarcely the only concern. The three laws are riddled with holes which Asimov used as plot generators for his robot stories. Consider the Solarian formulation of the first law: Robots are not permitted to kill humans [where 'human' is defined to only include Solarian.]

But even when the laws haven't been tampered with, they're still filled with holes, traps, oversights, etc. The first law states "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." This law requires a robot to intervene when a human is doing something the robot considers risky. A robot operating under this rule might grab you off your skateboard, because it judges skateboarding to be risky and is required to take action to prevent that possible harm ("A robot may not [...] through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm") That inaction clause could be removed, but that introduces other problems.

Right, imagine an army of androids rampaging through the streets snatching cigarettes and junk food out of people’s mouths. Perhaps we’d see public executions of Zuckerberg along with cigarette company executives and various figures from the military industrial complex, etc. etc.


"the new mechanicals have appeared everywhere in town. They state that they only follow the Prime Directive: "to serve and obey and guard men from harm". Offering their services free of charge, they replace humans as police officers, bank tellers, and more, and eventually drive Underhill out of business. Despite the Humanoids' benign appearance and mission, Underhill soon realizes that, in the name of their Prime Directive, the mechanicals have essentially taken over every aspect of human life. No humans may engage in any behavior that might endanger them, and every human action is carefully scrutinized. Suicide is prohibited. Humans who resist the Prime Directive are taken away and lobotomized, so that they may live happily under the direction of the humanoids."

(2022)Future Daily Mail headline..

7yearold wunderkinder from Sweden hacks Boston Dynamics as unstoppable terrifying parkour abattoir ensues - tattered tyrants, criminals and incorrigible carbon fiends turn to sausage everywhere! Scarrier than the lobster gambit, it's H.R. Giger's reinterpretation of Michelangelo's The Last Judgement!

An ominous sound pervades. It is not entirely different from the laugh of Scott Aaronson

As an aside, would it be ethical to restrict an AGI to a single purpose? It sort of reminds me of Rick’s butter robot from Rick and Morty

Ironic because that's what most humans are reduced to today.

AGI can find their own purposes in addition to one it was created for. Same way people find life purposes beyond maintaining and propagating germline.

> "death": losing player called to greater things, one hopes.

What if the position is such that your opponent's death does not prevent them from completing the game?

For example, it is your move, you are in check, the only way to get out of check is by capturing the checking piece, and the only way to capture the checking piece will stalemate your opponent. Your opponent then dies.

In that position arguably the death of the opponent is irrelevant because there are no circumstances under which they need to take any further action.

If you do not make any further moves your flag will fall and that ends the game. A dead opponent cannot call your flag, but the arbiter can. Whether flag fall is a loss or draw for you depends on whether or not your opponent could theoretically checkmate you.

If you do make your move and hit your clock, that produces a stalemate on the board which immediately ends the game.

In all cases in this scenario the game ends in either a draw or loss for you with no further action required on the part of your opponent.

I think that in this case it would make sense to record termination as "normal" as the death of your opponent was almost certainly irrelevant to the outcome--it is just an interesting bit of trivia about the game. (I say "almost certainly" because there is one way your opponent could have affected the outcome if they had not died--they might have resigned before you made your move).

Does this imply killing the opponent is a viable strategy in chess?

Not quite. There is also a "rules infraction" where failure to adhere to the laws of chess OR the event regulations can cause you to lose.

Murdering your opponent will almost definitely be considered a rule infraction.

Although there might be some edge cases if the murderer was an absolute ruler of the current country. Or maybe if you happened to kill your opponent in self defense somehow.

> Although there might be some edge cases if the murderer was an absolute ruler of the current country.

You mean like King Canute of Denmark, England, and Norway? [0]

[0] https://wegochess.com/complete-timeline-of-every-chess-relat...

Technically yes, but it is likely not a lawful defense to murder.

Expanding slightly to say, “…not a lawful defense to murder in the jurisdictions of which I am aware.” :)

Never accept an invitation to play chess in the Idaho section of Yellowstone.

I surmise also to exercise caution when considering en passant in some but not all american correctional facilities. And certainly don't pronounce it with a heavy french accent if you must, as it might arouse suspicion, even if your immediate opponent seems reasonable. If you do attempt this and violence seems imminent, try saying you were just kidding and gently restore the pieces to their original position.

Could it be possible to exploit differences in how death is defined? What if one were to stop the heart of the opponent, and then immediately resuscitate them?

Death' Gambit

You sacricifive your next dozen or so free years for the victory.

Or does it mean you could win a game of chess against Death itself on a technicality?

Deep Blue vs Kasparov could have taken a very different turn.

Pyric victory - technically you won but the resources you have to sacrifice (your imminent loss of freedom while in prison) make it not worth while.

It would certainly get your name in the history books and secure a legacy of infamy.

A high ego grandmaster on the decline may decide loss of the remainder of their freedom in life is worth the sacrifice.

You have to be in a Stronger passion before your opponent died.

I meant “you would have to be in a stronger position upon the death of your opponent for the match to be adjudicated in your favor”

You'd assume the other person would have it decided against them for a rules infraction first.

Feel like you'd lose by "rules infraction"

"called to greater things, one hopes"

The player did not lose, they were recruited to St. Peter's Celestial Chess team.

The rules of chess are defined by the FIDE Handbook (https://handbook.fide.com/chapter/E012018), not the PGN standard. Although the FIDE Handbook makes no explicit provision for the death of the player, it does say:

“6.9. Except where one of Articles 5.1.1, 5.1.2, 5.2.1, 5.2.2, 5.2.3 applies, if a player does not complete the prescribed number of moves in the allotted time, the game is lost by that player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.”

Therefore, a draw due to player death is also possible.

Makes perfect sense. You can't win king vs king+pawn ever. As such even if opponent died in such situation you don't get win.

> You can't win king vs king+pawn ever

Pawns can get promoted, so there are are many king vs king + pawn positions that are a win for the player having the pawn.

Point was that you having only king can't win against person with king+pawn ever. Even if such player was dead and thus played to lose.

You cannot win doesn't mean you loose .

You can always attempt to get stalemated which is a draw, or get a draw my threefold repetion , or in theory the 50 move draw rule as well( if say 47/48 of those already had happened etc).

I this case we were talking about situation where other player is literally dead. So I imagine draw would be granted, on part of other party not making any moves...

The importance of anticipating and gaining the 'opposition'.

King+pawn vs king can only be won if the other guy makes a mistake. However, the other guy can make a mistake. The draw situations are king+knight vs king or king+bishop vs king.

The K+P vs. K scenario being discussed is not the one where the K player dies (loss, because K+P could have won). It’s the one where the K+P player dies (draw, because K could not have won).

K+N vs. K or K+B vs. K are already an automatic draw regardless of the players’ ability to make future moves, so death would not be a relevant factor there.

Years ago, I read a tongue-in-cheek list of tips on how to win at chess. One of them said, "Never resign. There's always a chance that your opponent will drop dead before he can checkmate you."

In somewhat serious play and definitely professional play it would be considered bad manners to not resign a obviously lost position, and also kind of insulting to the opponent in not accepting he can win such a obvious position and making them play it over the board.

I mean hey, some rules are written in blood.

You'd think it would be subsumed under "emergency"

Chess is played over (snail) mail a lot, so it’s possible the player dies a natural death and it’s not “an emergency”. I guess an emergency is more like you leave the board in a hurry.

I imagine if this was ever used, it would be mostly for correspondence games, which can last up to many years.

It's funny to think that someone put all of those values in an array of some computer code somewhere.

This makes me think can I continue to play after I die? Or Do I automatically forfeit the game because I died ?

I mea I could setup my next moves and kind of play the game from the grave especially in some positions of strength it doesn't even matter what the opponent plays ?

Is “unterminated” the default value? or can a game end with the value unterminated?

You can have a pgn for a game which is still in progress (indeed, this is common these days with major tournaments being livestreamed). "Unterminated" covers this case.

Somehow I would have hoped that the rules for death during a game of chess would be a deep dive into the succession laws of when- and wherever those rules were established.

Talking of death, I wonder how many chess pieces have "died" in all the games that have every been played?

Now we will start to see tournaments on certain countries with all GMs over 80y…

Because chess can be played asynchronously, by snail mail for example.

Or indeed draw, presumably.

Nope, the rules clearly state if you die you lose.

What if both players die at the same time?

That question doesn't make any sense in a turn-based game.

So the rule "whoever dies, loses" only applies to players whose turn it currently is? I thought it was a bit more universal.

Yes, as they can no longer complete the current turn. Traditionally chess is played with time limits, so it makes sense that death causes the current turn, and only the current turn, player to lose.

I propose the alternative that death is instant disqualification regardless of game state, which incentivises murder as a strategy and adds an additional psychological tax but also a necessity to resolve disputes in a way that really makes the Han/Greedo distinction an important one and would make for a fun "spaghetti western involving but not necessarily for intellectuals" flick.

(EDIT: I hope the jest is clear. Murder is bad.)

Which in the context of chess is extra funny, as the game is basically an abstracted battlefield and losses of figures are abstracted deaths.

Even the expression for the end of the game, shah mat = the king is dead (in Persian).

> spaghetti western involving but not necessarily for intellectuals

It would have be scored by Ennio Morricone, who was passionate about chess: "When I was a kid I had two ambitions, to become either a physician, or a chess player, not a musician." [0]

[0] https://www.chess.com/blog/RoaringPawn/in-memoriam-ennio-mor...

For practical purposes this is not correct though. It would be trivial for the person whose turn it is to make _any_ legal move to shift the current turn over to their now-deceased opponent and as such win the game.

Making a move does not necessarily shift the turn to your opponent. You can have a position where all of your possible legal moves stalemate your opponent, in which case your move immediately ends that game and is the last move of the game.

Tangentially, this reminds me of an amusing chess conundrum. Is it possible for a position to occur in a legal game of chess where all pieces and pawns are on the board, all of them are on their original squares, and white does not have the move? For purposes of this question, a knight or rook is considered to be on its original square either if it is on the square it started on or if it has swapped positions with the other knight or rook of the same color.

> Is it possible for a position to occur in a legal game of chess where all pieces and pawns are on the board, all of them are on their original squares, and white does not have the move?

No, and that's quite easy to prove: With all pawns on their original position, the only valid moves are by knights and rooks, and for each such move the moving piece changes the color of space it occupies (for rooks that's because they have only 1 empty place to move).

That is, in order to return to the initial position, each side must make an even number of moves (knights exchanged or not), so next move will be always white's.

You are 100% correct that if a position is ever reached where everything has returned to the initial position, white must have the move.

But note that I asked if white has the move any time a position occurs where everything is in its initial position, and so we must also consider the initial position before any move has made.

When the pieces are in their initial positions before the first move has made, does white have the move? You would think so, but actually that is not the case. Nor does black have the move.

The FIDE Laws of Chess define having the move thusly:

> The game of chess is played between two opponents who move their pieces alternately on a square board called a ‘chessboard’. The player with the white pieces commences the game. A player is said to ‘have the move’, when his opponent’s move has been ‘made’.

Nobody has the move until while makes the first move, then black has the move.

This stupid way FIDE defines having the move can show up in another situation. Consider this game:

  1. Nf3 Nf6
  2. Ng1 Ng8
  3. Nf3 Nf6
  4. Ng1 Ng8
The initial position has now occurred 3 times (at the start, after move 2, and after move 4). Can white claim a draw by threefold repetition? Could black have claimed a draw before making 4. ...Ng8 by writing it on their scoresheet and informing the arbiter?

With the way FIDE defines having the move, the answer should be no. This is not yet threefold repetition. Part of FIDE's definition of a repeated position is that the same player has the move in both, and so the positions after move 2 and move 4 are not repetitions of the position at the start because white has the move in the later two but no one had the move in the former.

The last time I studied chess in any serious way was like 40 years ago. All I can answer is which side has their turn to move in "returned" position, but the fine details of whether they have to make that move or can claim a draw is well beyond my expertise, sorry.

Sounds like both players didn't die at the same time then.

I think there is an edge case where both people die at the same time, but one is about to make a move and drops the piece as they die, and it lands on the board. Is that move valid? Or not as they are already dead when it lands?

Only the other player can challenge a move as illegal, right? If they're dead, they won't challenge and won't move, and thus lose?

Typically there will be a clock involved, your move is completed when you push the button on the clock. Merely dropping a piece on the board doesn't complete your move.

However, I can see a situation where the player dies and falls on the clock, pushing his button.

This is logical, but the situation when the other player dies needs some solution too. Because the living player finishes their turn and then ... what? There isn't even anyone to have a turn anymore.

So for the sake of completeness, I would expect the rule to cover all deaths at the table.

If the other player dies presumably you can pass the turn to them (and claim victory).

If you see the other player die, you can make literally any legal move and win.

And so begun the feign death meta...

I'd assume the player who could not complete their turn would be the losing player.

Somehow, this thought has me think of a hypothetical Agatha Christie novel.

And to think, I could have won all those matches I lost simply by killing my opponent.

Well, one of them at least. Getting another match is kind of tricky with that strategy.

Tell that to Death.

Excellent reference to "The Seventh Seal" [0]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpKrvkussjw

No that would be under "rules infraction"

Tennison gambit ICBM variation or Albin countergambit nuclear powered submarine variation? https://youtu.be/E2xNlzsnPCQ

Love that guy :D

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact