The Socio-Politics of the First Move in Chess

Dear Reader,

I just penned an article that may pique your interest. It examines the “first mover advantage” in chess. I have had many online debates (mostly notably on The Daily Dirt) about this issue and most of the arguments point to white’s plus score in games played in the database. However, there is much more to that percentage. Do we really have a large enough sample of games to determine the advantage and if so are there other factors which may contribute to white’s plus score?

I look forward to a healthy debate.

~ Daaim Shabazz

National Master Lionel Davis with son Shaka playing an ultramodern game.

National Master Lionel Davis with son Shaka playing an ultramodern game.

The Socio-Politics of the First Move in Chess

Chess is a game of perfect duality… a game of opposites… a game of dyadic dynamism. Its dynamism is what makes chess so intriguing. However, there is a point of chess that has been taken as an accepted truth… black has to fight to restore equilibrium and is thus at a natural disadvantage. All of this stems from the fact that white (or the lighter color) has the first move.

We often hear that a player must win with white and be happy to draw with black. Is this based on the sample of games that have been played thus far? Is this a concrete truism or a mere perception shaped by how the game has been presented to the chess-playing public? Saying that white has the advantage is easy, but can we truly deduce that it is due to the first move?

Racial Politics on First Move?

Moors playing chess in Spain

Historically, chess has gone through a metamorphosis, but the origin of white moving first is not known. The game was brought to Europe by the Moors of Africa during their 800-year rule. However, little is known about chess in Moorish Spain. Much of the literature was probably burned by the Spaniards after the Moors were driven out in the 15th century. It was then that the game of chess was remade into the game we play today.

Some argue that there are serious racial overtones in the game of chess stemming from the above historical footnote. Psychiatrist Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing of The Isis Papers fame has used chess as a metaphor to describe racism within the context of her social “color-confrontation theory.” While Dr. Welsing’s theories have been long debated, there are some interesting truisms in the chess metaphor.

We have all seen the problem books replete with entire compilations of “white to play to mate,” or “white to play and win” problems. Most chess books and software are presented from the perspective of the reader having the white pieces. Do these notions provide white with a perception of superiority? Perhaps history may suggest that at the time these rules were made, there may have been a symbolic message conveyed. These traditions have been carried on without much thought. However, we need to examine the historical context to get more details. Let us examine more technical aspects of color allocation.

Is Chess a Fair Game?

White scores approximately 55% with the white pieces and many attribute this dominance to the first move privilege. Is it that simple?

In chess tournaments, each player gets a color allocation and it usually alternates. The notion of having the “advantage of the white pieces” is well-known. There have been many discussions on white’s superior results which ranges from 52-55%. Since white moves first and all other rules are equal, many deduce that the first move offers a tangible advantage. Of course, we will see that this argument can be tested.

Many boil the first move advantage down to notions such as tempos and white’s aforementioned percentage of victory. However, chess games are not linear and do not follow a uniform pace throughout the game. There are many tempos lost and gained by both sides in the course of a game. The pace ebbs and flows; the advantage swings back and forth.

As the game changes its character, the importance of the first move may have long lost much its relevance to the position. In fact, black has as much right to determine the character of the game. If chess were merely decided by tempos, openings like the Center Counter would not be playable at all. Notwithstanding, there is something psychological about how we view the colors we play. Given the accepted notions, playing white is supposed to be an advantage.

Ever notice that novice players gleefully grab the white pieces and go into games with an attitude to win with white? Players with white sometimes feel they can magically win against players several levels above them. There is a psychological component that we do not realize. Even top players play into this notion. Most top players often state “a draw with Black is OK.” Yet, a player like Bobby Fischer appeared to carry no such notion regardless of the competition. The object of chess is to win a given game and the notion that we are only attempting to equalize with black may translate into a poorer psychological outlook when playing.

Perhaps the advantage of white’s first move was more evident when most games took on a more symmetrical character, but hypermodernism has had a profound impact on the nature of chess.

If it is said that white has “first mover advantage,” then theories of martial science based on countermeasures and counterattacks are debunked. In martial science, art and warfare, one does not necessarily say that the person who throws the first blow or fires the first shot has the advantage. As in chess, it is also true in warfare that having the advantage depends on many factors… terrain, size and strength of respective armies, access to resources, preparation, stealth, strategic and tactical acumen, etc. In fact, moving first could be a disadvantage. Who moves (or strikes) first is not as important as much as whether the player moving second has adequate countermeasures, or even evasive techniques. That is what makes chess so intriguing and most of all, a fair game.

Black is Good (without the first move)!

Overall strength of an army makes a difference in the outcome of warfare. It is often said that a chess game played at the highest levels should be a draw. If that is the case, then what happened to the first mover advantage? If we accepted this advantage, what does white’s win percentage represent? Is it a constant 7-8%? Can black narrow the gap? It just so happens that we have approximately 2-3 million games recorded. This is a very small sample relative to the “reasonable” possibilities for chess.

With the advent of Internet chess and the millions of games being played daily, we will arrive at more balanced play. As we evolve, we will find that there will be points in history where black will experience an increasingly higher percentage of wins with more improvements in theory.

As the sample of games increase and the knowledge and experience of these encounters become assimilated, it will become more difficult to win. Thus, the percentage will even out. It is simply the dyadic law of chess, or we would be playing an unfair game.

In the past, most of the research we have found is skewed in finding advantages and attacking systems for white. Over the past 50 years, black has found resources to fight for initiative. Since the object in chess is to win, any other notion is self-defeating. Perhaps the advantage of white’s first move was more evident when most games took on a more symmetrical character, but hypermodernism has had a profound impact on the nature of chess. If you look at lines in the Sicilian Sveshnikov, Sicilian Dragon, Sicilian Najdorf, King’s Indian, Benko Gambit, the Marshall Gambit and other fighting systems, do practitioners of these lines say they’re trying to equalize? Of course not!

Exploring Options

White is currently scoring 52-55%. Is this percentage only relevant in the common starting position? If chess is a true game, we should also ask if the first move would yield the same advantage in all 960 positions in Fischer Random. Would the win-loss percentage change as the beginning position changes? Would the winning percentage swing in black’s favor if its player was awarded the first move? It would be interesting to see whether the player playing white would continue to perceive an advantage despite the rule change.

While I contend it does not matter who moves first (if chess is fair), it would be interesting to see the reaction. Recently, I sat down to play a casual game of chess and the other person said, “Oh… here we play black moves first.” Strange, I thought… but I obliged. Since the board is now mirrored, I was disoriented to say the least. I was playing white and promptly dropped a piece to a pawn fork on forgetting that the system I played does not work with the queen and king position reversed!! I later complicated the position, got a strong attack and ended up mating my opponent.

These types of options are the future for chess. Randomizing the color allocation (choosing which color moves first) would be interesting but would create pairing issues. National Master Lionel Davis has discussed these issues in what he calls “ultramodern chess”… that is black moving first (see blog topic). I would add that Fischer Random will be the game of the future.

Composed: 24 January 2008

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.


  1. Ah, i know this opening 1.Nf3 e6 2.Ng1?! e5!! :mrgreen:

    Jonathan Rowson argues some similar point re: the psychological mindset of being black in Chess for Zebras– perhaps the title’s “zebra” metaphor reflects the color dichotomy as well. I haven’t looked at that book, but i recall super-blogger/genius Michael Goeller’s detailed review at the Kenilworthian. One point in black’s favor is that black has additional information; white must play his cards first.

    I recall reading that in the earlier days of chess, first move was determined without respect to color: i’ll try to get you a source on that. 💡

    Algebraic notation is another example of the game’s “white” orientation. Black’s squares are named backwards H-A and 8-1 in order to accommodate white. Problem is, to be fair to both sides we’d have to dispense with algebraic notation! Yet, the general preference for algebraic rather than descriptive notation highlights the convenience of setting one color or the other as the “default”. It allows bare diagrams to convey orientation without any other clues (ie, white on bottom, black on top), and “white” and “black” serve as shorthand for first-mover and second-mover, and pattern recognition is aided. Orienting a board h-a and 8-1 would further confuse novice players! I suppose you could start half the games with black starting on a1-h1 and a2-h2, but wouldn’t that be unnecessarily confusing??

    I prefer to think of the color distinction as arbitrary, much like the rule about bottom-right square is white. Although, the socio-political viewpoint is particularly valid if not compelling where the colored figures represent human forces. Great post in any case. 🙂

  2. FYI:
    Polerio in 1590 notates a game where black moves first. (Leon, J.A.: “Notes on a Recently Discovered Polerio Manuscript.” British Chess Magazine, 1894, p.334.)

    W.John Lutes, in Danish Gambit (2nd ed., p.1-2) says in a footnote: “Polerio gives black the first move. It was not until the time of George Walker (1803-1879) that White was always ceded the initial move.”

  3. Thanks Patrick.

    Today I was thinking of 1.Nf3 d5 Ng1 e5. Notice that now black is two tempi up. If white wins this game, it will merely be counted in the database as a win (1-0) and people may infer that it was due to the first move. However, tempos are traded during a game and there would be no scientific way to connect white’s win to the first move. Chess has too much dynamism to determine the true value of the first move… unless chess becomes solved.

    Looking forward to those sources.


  4. 🙄 Dear Brothers
    Thanks for this article. I agree with Bro. Shabazz that the game of chess as a game is pure. (pure is my term for what he said. )
    I also know that there is a great deal of psychological warefare going on as well. I was taught black moves first by a brother in prison who was just realeased and he explained the warfare to me. So 10yrs later after doing the research i created a website because Ronald B Mincy, Raymond Winbush who wrote books on Black Male development said what ever we teach our children must have a Afrocentric tone to it and chess is the only game that will raise test scores and improve classroom behavior among other things. Chess is white moves first and no Afrocentric tone to it. I created chessboards with Africa and the Ank on them. This is done so that when a child is playing chess he is developing uplift for/of his peaple in the subconscious of his mind, just as when our children are playing white moves first they are learning to submit to choosing white over black due to the advantage of winning. (The Clark doll experiment). Look at the October 15, 2007 Newsweek Mag and you will see in it Xerox using chess to make a point. A Black king fallen down in front of a orange knight, pink queen, blue king, purple rook, green bishop yellow &blue pawn. this is a example of psychological warefare. I call teaching white moves first, the corporate game because that is the flow in America. I call teaching Black moves first the game of Uplift becuase we must now make the first moves.
    Love the Mission, keep the Faith
    Professor Peacock

  5. While I like to play both Black and White in chess, my personality seems to make me prefer Black! I like the more subtle defensive games that Black usually starts out with, that can end up in a very energetic counter offensive! I think that even though the percentage of wins seems to be slightly in White’s favor over a very large number of games, Black certainly isn’t lost from move #1! I think the racial overtones is taking the chess metaphor a little too far for my tastes!
    That is, to me it really doesn’t matter that much, because chess is so large, and in any event, to play chess well, you need to play well with both the White and the Black pieces! I know we’re so used to using color to stand for race, i.e., “Blacks” or “Whites”, but suppose chess had evolved with pink and green colored pieces? What would people make of the metaphor then? Actually, I think the race thing is really more of a distraction than anything else, and probably not worth much to those who want to improve at the game!

  6. Gentleman,

    I think its much deeper.

    I believe that the symbolism of the black/white dichotomy may have had a specific purpose during the Spanish reconquista against the Moors, but the history of shatranj (chess) in Persia and chataranga (India) should be researched to determine the origins these rules. Many of us forget that chess was created in the East and the development of chataranga may have been more an expression of metaphysical realities than an exercise in warfare.

    Chess appears to represent the ancient Egyptian deity of MAAT (balance and reciprocity), the law of duality and of course the ying and yang. The idea of chess may have more to do with a battle with one’s own self than depicting physical war with an enemy. This concept is true in martial arts and warfare. Thus, I don’t believe the black/white paradigm was the original intent in chess. I believe when the Spanish changed the game, it may have moved from the metaphysical concept to something to depict physical warfare between enemies. What happened in Spain during the Moorish rule between 711AD and 1492BC is something worthy of study. However, much of the history was destroyed when the Moors were driven out and their literature burned.

    Moors of Spain playing chess!

    I must admit that I grew up noticing the many biasness toward white such as the “white to play and mate” books. I always wondered as a young player why black never won. It wasn’t a racial question, but it made me think in those term of a natural white advantage. What Brother Peacock was mentioning about the black king being on its side. See some of the images I found after a simple Google search on “black chess king.” I’ve seen the black king on its side or checkmated in many magazine and newspaper ads, clip art and even commercials. It is an interesting discussion.

  7. The intent of my previous post was to indicate that although metaphors and symbolism may exist in chess, I choose to ignor some aspect of such metaphors and symbolism. Of course, for the sake of erudition the avid chess player probably should delve somewhat into the history of the game, including its variants, famous players, and significant events. But for me, I choose to pretty much ignore some of the more negative ideas related to the games purpose or history, simple because for me, it’s more of a distraction than anything else! So far, I have found our wonderful game much more enjoyable when I focus my energies on improving my play!

  8. I understand and agree about the focus on improving play. I could talk about the Sicilian Defense (or any opening or endgame) for hours and hours if that were the topic. I don’t think of “first move” issues when I play or study either, but the “65th Square” essays explore tangential chess topics.

    Many could care less about the history and sociopolitics of WHY white moves first. However, chess is such a rich art that there are many ways to analyze it and understand it. Peacock’s assertion that white (or the lighter color) moving first is Eurocentric may be historically true. That doesn’t mean we should go to the Arbiter and say, “I demand that black (or the darker color) move first.” 😐

    We won’t rewrite history by making rule changes in chess. When the Moors were defeated, the Spanish adopted the game and remade it. In honor of Queen Isabella, they made the queen the strongest piece and the game took on religious symbolism. We can either play it as it is (with the given rules), find another variant we are comfortable with, or worse case… quit chess and play poker.

  9. I’ve been told but have never seen the referance that black has a contrast advantage over white and thus white is rewarded with the first move to compensate

    this surely seems to fit as far as I am concerned

    I want to add that the slight advantage white enjoys wins vs losses might be due to the fact that more people prefer it and resign themselves to a loss or draw when black

    in any event, I believe black does indeed enjoy a contrast advantage over white and therefore white gets first move

  10. I think that this augument has a great deal of merrit, however the game itself is pure as brother Diam and others have mentioned, but the idea of black and white pieces in chess presents a mental matrix of long term race issues across the board. While reading this particular thread one author comes to mind – Dr.Francis Cress Welling – “The Isis Papers” Throughout the book she deals with some of the more subtle issues of race and sports, with chess being one of many games to support her auguments.

  11. John,

    It is written “Daaim” (or “Daa’im”) and pronouced da-eem.

    Cress-Welsing, a native Chicagoan, had a short introduction to a video with a chessboard set up (wrong) and discussed the opposing forces. She described the forces in terms of racial symbology and the “Cress Color Confrontation.”

    Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing

    I believe chess may be used as a metaphor for many things and perhaps race conflict is one, but I think the entire concept is much, much deeper. We may understand that chess is symbolic of a law of opposites, law of duality, the yin and the yang, thesis and antithesis, positive and negative, etc.

    I still hear top players talking about a win with black as if it is a minor miracle. Maybe their amazement is that they won at all since the game is most likely drawn between players at the highest levels. I believe chess is profound enough not to be decided by the first move (as a principle). Think about it. If white wins because of the first move, can white also lose because of the first move??

    “First mover advantage” (in chess, as in business) has some interesting sidenotes. In business, there is something called “second-mover advantage.” That is the situation where the second-mover has learned from the first-mover’s mistakes. In business, the innovator has to overcome market barriers, cost factors and inefficiencies. In chess, white has to expose its intentions and black has a multitude of options from which to steer the game.

  12. I HAVE SEEN very MANY OLD SETS(1800s)often grandmaster /world champion level,that are RED & WHITE
    (once had cheap smallish standard staunton transparent plastic set in light green & pink!we guessed/decieded pink move 1st)

  13. I am the primary author of the Wikipedia featured article “First-move advantage in chess,” which you may find of interest. I am also the primary author of the Wikipedia article “White and Black in chess,” which among other things discusses the history of White moving first.

    I was surprised to learn from my research that the practice of White moving first is a relatively recent innovation, becoming the norm only sometime in the late 19th century. Philidor in his famous 1747 treatise gave a game in which Black moved first. Hardly anyone knows it, but contemporary accounts show that in the Immortal Game, an offhand game between Anderssen and Kieseritzky in 1851, Black moved first! (In other words Anderssen, although he moved first, won the Immortal Game with the Black pieces.) In 1857, the Secretary of the New York Chess Club informed those assembled at the First American Chess Congress (won by Morphy) that he had received a letter from Johann Löwenthal, a leading English master, “suggesting the advisableness of always giving the first move in public games, to the player of the white pieces.” The club evidently did not follow this advice, since in its match the following year against its Philadelphia counterpart, Philadelphia played White in both games, but moved first only in the second game. The “Revised International Chess Code” promulgated at the great London 1883 tournament provided that, “Before the beginning of the first game the first move and choice of colour are determined by lot.” In other words, the player who won the right to move first could choose whether to do so with the Black or White pieces. Steinitz wrote in “The Modern Chess Instructor” (1889) that, “In all international and public Chess matches and tournaments . . . it is the rule for the first player to have the white men.”

  14. Fascinating history! I had no idea whatsoever how far back this history went.

    Hey… I remember you from the old Chicago days! Some of your friends I saw you with were Ken Mohr, Al Chow, Ken Walter and Mario Spinsosa… all Masters. Those days at Jules Stein’s club were memorable.

    I still remember the game you annotated for the Informant. That game won a prize I believe. I Understand through the grapevine that things are going well with you.

    Thanks for posting.

  15. Hi! Yes, we had a lot of fun in those days. You’ve got a good memory. I apologize, but I don’t remember you. You are right that I annotated Rhine-Sprenkle (1981) in Chess Informant, Volume 32. Its 18.Nxd6! was indeed voted the 8th-9th most important TN in that volume. I published another very tactical (and theoretically significant) win, Kyle Thompson-Rhine, in Informant 57. Those two games and a very nice sacrificial draw (my opponent was doing the sacrificing) are on Things are actually not so great for me these days. I lost my job as a lawyer after 12 years because, frankly, I was obsessed with opposing our monstrous president (Bush) to the detriment of my billable hours. (Today, Election Day, should be a very good day for our side, I hope.) These days I’m working as an agent for Primerica Financial Services, a division of Citigroup. If you want to possibly (a) save yourself hundreds of dollars on home and/or auto insurance and (b) help me out a little, e-mail me at and I’ll e-mail you back a brochure for Primerica Secure, a service that compares the rates you’re paying for insurance with those charged by about 20 top-rated companies. Thanks.

  16. Fred,

    I had heard Angelo Sandrin tell someone you were at Columbia Law School. The first time I saw you, you were playing bughouse on one of about eight boards. Everyone was screaming and tossing pieces down the tables. I had never seen anything like it.

    You remember me, but my surname was “Bolden” then. I hung with Marvin Dandridge. I was a young Expert then and went to CVS after Marvin. You went to Lane Tech and Chow came after you. I played against Chow in the Public League.

    Do you know what happened to Mario Spinosa? I heard he moved to the west-coast. I’m sure you remember Larry (Dripps) Chachere, who became a computer scientist. He was always so unassuming and deceptively sneaky in chess. I remember he beat a lot of strong players because the rating had frozen at 1461 when he was at least 2000 strength. Spinosa was 1272 and his next rating was over 1900. Emory Tate was 1797 and was already Master strength. They all raked in so much tournament money because they were grossly under-rated. Dandridge was instrumental in my chess development. He beat me brutally until I got better! (laughing)

    Interestingly enough, I got the idea of The Chess Drum because Vince Berry asked me about strong Black chess players and I couldn’t answer him. I was still very young, but that question was a seed and it germinated into a 7000-page site.

    Glad you stopped by!

  17. Daaim, yes of course I remember you under your old name of Darren Bolden. Yes, Mario Spinosa had a meteoric rise. I well remember the tournament I directed at the Chicago Chess Center where he upset Ove Kroll of Denmark (then a graduate student at the University of Chicago). Spinosa was still at 1272 and Kroll had a provisional rating of over 2300! It’s still the biggest upset I’ve ever heard of, let alone witnessed – over 1000 points. I did indeed attend Columbia Law School, from which I graduated in 1986. Good to hear from you after all these years. I’ve seen this site before, and your (present) name, but of course didn’t make the connection.

  18. Brother Shabazz we thank you for your tireless efforts in bringing the world such a unique perspective on chess, also the work of Mr. Rhine is well appreciated i wasnt aware of the history of white having the first move and to be honest it is simply wrong. We now have two World Champs Vishy and Obama! After game 3 it was clear that the dubious match strategy of playing to win with white and draw with black was busted ,which exposed the traditionalist as being limited to artificial intelligence, i think they have hypermodern programmers for their machines too and they cant beat it even when it gives them material, my son Shaka says they are playing “Halfchess”. So its seems Steintz was their first Halfchess Champ, thanks again Rhine! Study the history of their champ matches and you will see only Vishy and Fischer played chess with the “Black Men”,even their best player Kasparov cowarded during his matches with black! To the young people of the chess world , like Mr. Barclay {nice simul} please give me the opprotunity to leave you with this,After meeting Bobby Fischer on the icc i was motivated to create a name for this new science so we settled on ULTRAMODERNIST which debuted Dec.21, 1998 when i logged in it felt bittersweet to me, i was convinced that i would never do anything greater than ultramodern theory, On Dec.21 2000 my son Shaka was born !! so The moral of this story YES WE CAN!! Peace.

  19. Good day brothers im blogging here today to keep you updated on the foward progress of our Afrocentric Chess Science. I have sent an email to President Obama via his Myspace page and the White House concerning the bias towards the white move first idea.We will have this rule changed and we wont be going away so they can go into a room and use our ideas and get the historical respect for our creation like they did Maurice Ashley’s draw rule and change the name to the Sophia rule i believe they named it after one of their cities.As for the rest of the world who is reading this lets say the brits, the russians as bobby would say and the norwegians, I see you all seemed impressed with this transboard action of the knight concept well ,we were just showing off with that idea, the stronger stuff we gunna hit you with later, ur not dealing with Maurice or Tate or Carlson .Did you really think our heavenly father would let Fischer just pass away and take all that knowledge with him? GENUS SUMUS. Yo brother Shabazz this is really a brilliant website! im getting hungry now maybe for rating points or something , somebody pass the waffles and grits! hahaha.HHm im wonderin what nige short thinkin right now PEACE.

  20. Darren,

    If you ever studied martial arts or science, you’ll know you don’t necessarily get the initiative by moving first. It depends on the situation, the strength of each side in warfare and whether the second player has adequate countermeasures (i.e., resources, intelligence, skill, tactics, strategy). If he does, then you will not have an advantage.

    Today, black has many more resources than when players only studied the white side of the board and wrote books totally from the white vantage point. Look at some of the “Play to Mate” books. Look at 19th century books and all we saw were sacrifices on f7-square. Hypermodernism changed all of that. The statistics are starting to even out and black has so many systems to fight for the initiative despite giving the first move. The Sicilian of course is a fine example.

    If the two strongest players or computers played the best moves available in a chess game, what would the result be? A draw.

  21. Thinking laterally on martial science, the first move doesn’t matter if you have adequate countermeasures…

    … but does matter if you don’t!

    Looking at the videos, it’s obvious that skill is one of the main determinants of whether the first move (strike) is advantageous. I believe the same applies to chess. In the first video, Grandmaster Anthony Muhammad gave his “uke” the first punch in each case, but had countermeasures. In the second video, there is no way that guy should give anyone the first punch! 😆

  22. The drawback Daaim is ;white always has lines where if he plays unambitiously can be easily turned into a draw ,a clear example is Petroff with Qe2(you know which one),French exchange,Exchange slav,Sicilian Rossolimo with Bxd7 Qxd7 ,and lots more ,

  23. True. It still depends on more factors other than the first move. I personally do not believe in the absolute advantage of the first move. It defies everything about martial science and warfare and makes chess sound trivial. Maybe it is a relative advantage, but it depends.

    Skilled countermeasures can neutralize the first move (strike) and is a major determinant in whether the first move (strike) constitutes an advantage. However, a major reason that white has a 5%-6% edge in the stats is the chess world has built a bigger body of knowledge on how white should win.

  24. I think you got it right there Daaim,luckily white is still playing for a win so black will always get a chance.

  25. Daaim – One day computers will help us solve the traditional chess position, and then we will know the answer! For now, I agree with you. While the first move confers an initiative that must be addressed by the second player, black does indeed have sufficient resources, and with best play, can always draw.

    Now that’s the mathematical dimension to the question. The sporting dimension is different. In pursuit of tournament or match success, the both players will purposely take risks in certain games to obtain the potential for victory. The reason that computers have become impossible to beat by humans, is that their calculation horizons have grown so far out, that they continually find the 1 in a million variation that saves even the worst of positions. Humans just can’t find them as often, so they lose more.

  26. RJT,

    I agree. Long gone are the days when you’d be able to trick computer into home-cooked lines with white. They recognize transpositions and understand positional sacrifices.

    Whenever I play Fritz, I enjoy playing black because I’m able to get good positions. The problem comes in the middlegame when the computer seems to find tactical resources. You’re right, it will find the appropriate calculation more than not… and what beautiful moves it can find!

    Bring on Fischer-Random!!

  27. OOh , brother Shabazz are you saying when a middlegame is played against one of their Hypermodern bots and the complications increase its more likely than not that a human will error because of the difficulty of playing chess with the confusing nature of their ideas ? It seems when one is using the old concepts chess seems more like a crossword puzzle as opposed to using the new stuff which intreprets chess like a jigsaw puzzle , Is that what you mean? hehe!!! hey where you find grandmaster muhammad tell him i got a nice pair a track shoes!!!!!! haha

  28. This is a weird discussion. Surely if “black” moved first, then “black” would have a 5-6% edge? There is no color in chess, black and white are just used as markers for who has the move. If it was green and pink, with green to move first, then green would have the edge.

  29. It’s hard to believe, but the last time a human GM beat a top computer was in 1996 !! Kasparov vs. Deep Blue I. Of course Garry lost the rematch vs. DB II.

    Every match since then has either been drawn, or resulted in a decisive victory for the computer.

  30. Wilfred,

    My point is that there is no edge, colors aside. I believe that once the sample of games played become large enough, we will see closer to a 50-50 score. As I said before, there are too many factors in chess to boil an advantage down to the first move.

    It doesn’t matter who moves first, assuming of course that we are talking about equally strong players. If a 1900 ELO plays white against a 2300 ELO, then black has the advantage. If we are talking about equal strength, then it’s equal. We play a game where opening resources for playing white are greater at this point in time, but black is gaining.

  31. Well Mr. Penrose apparently Steinitz created this “white idea” about moving first and Ultramodern Knowledge clearly challenges his concept also Fischer said “1e4 best by test ” so 1e5 is a sort of “eternal test” so its not clear why you believe this to be a weird discussion, chess has to evolve in order to survive just like everything else. Yes its seems the computers are a bit better with gret calculating ability so perhaps we as people who happen to be chessplayers, each his own unique creation ,will find it necessary to rely on a mathematical truth like stars in the universe. Yes brother Shabazz the top competitors in the world have already begun to adjust their game to this “ULtramodern Truth”,actually its been there all the time sometimes bias blinds us, once again i must say we are truly grateful for this site The Chess Drum- Where Amazing Happens! Peace.

  32. When i was white on the Icc as the ULTRAMODERNIST i would play their gms with 1.e3 after e5 2 e4!? thereby forcing them to be “white ” this idea is called the Tempo Gambit ,basically you play black in every game to force them to prove their “advantage of the first move theory”,apparently they were impressed to a degreee i suppose even naka began experimenting with this concept if i recall go to may 09′ chess life page 9 and you will see someone pretending to be Ultramodern. hehe Just for you information. Peace.

  33. Traditionally chessplayers of African descent have yet to get the proper respect from the chess world at large and this most recent ruling against Mr. Lawton has only served to magnify the obvious,also Mr. Phillips well thought out blogs has the splendid taste of fresh fruit. The combination of theses two occurances has motivated the ULTRAMODERNIST to begin a peaceful protest by no longer writing down their ratings or their titles on the scoresheet i.e. NM-FM-IM-GM until we are receive equal treatment at their chess events and i would like to encourage all those who agree to do the same i am hopeful to see you in Philly for further discussions and actions on the subject. At present we are dealing with characters like henrik danielsen who want to adopt Ultramodern concepts and take them over to europe and pretend its theirs if you go to youtube and type “the naughty bishop” you will see the knight star demonstration ive been teaching for years to give players a visual on the power of a centralized knight , we got a lot more though so stay tuned. Peace.

  34. The only way for Blacks to receive equal treatment is to play with honor and achieve results at the highest levels on a consistent basis… not just one or two players. Other than that, we may as well stop talking about these things and produce results!

  35. Quite right brother Shabazz Ultramodern Chess is here to wipe out the traditional players or thoses whom they term “elite”,however first we had to point out their flawed ideas about being “black” so we just crushed them on the ICC with the Ultrapirc, then when they began adopting this method we hit them with 1e5 to expose their biased opinions then they started changing their books and pictures and give some black to play and mate problems. So the change President Obama spoke of is in fact here. I must admit i kinda love that NBA CHESS video, i cant wait to get a hold of theses guys over the board, then the children will come behind and finish them off! Brothers if you go over theses so called “elite chessplayers’ games you will see the respect for the ne6 idea and Vishy hit them with a nd3 idea and they think its new but i pointed out this idea to Fischer on the ICC back in 99′. basically brothers we have to go through the process and it takes a lilttle time before 100s of years of bias in chess gets exposed. Personal competitve chess success is not really important for Ultramoden Science however im certain to win many of their events simply because of they have many bad ideas about chess,as a matter of fact Vishy just breakin away from some of this stuff and playin his own game for the first time! Vishy how u like my Ghandi idea ” Even if you are a minority of one… hehe Peace.

  36. HAHAHA nice stuff Magnus gettin in on it? huh?, Daaim if u see My boo, Susan Polgar ,ask her what she thinks? Adia , dont read this u know UM KTAZY!!! BUBBAFISHA. hehe.

  37. Hello, I also remember you as your old name Darren Bolden. I was on the CSU chess team and traveled with you guys, but was 6th board and didn’t get a round in. But had a ball during the event. You used to play me with your back to the board and still would win. I saw Marvin at the McDonalds on 95th and Halsted playing last year. He remembered me. Good luck to you and happy games!

    Andre’ J-Bey

    1. Well well!

      Good to meet you again sir!

      I think you went to Atlanta 1980, but I played in 1981. I do remember our games in the K-building including one that you were confident in winning, but the game was adjourned. I believe you had a better position. You gleefully copied the position down, but we never finished the game. Those were good days with Lemmie Blaylock. CSU never got “chess magic” again. I believe Mr. Blaylock ended up retiring out in Arizona.

      I indeed remember you and you were always complimentary of me. That meant a lot to a developing player.

      Marvin as still at it although not the brash person he used to be. There are a handful of us who have remained active. He’ll always be a special person in my chess development. I recently did a story on him.

      I have spent the last 18 years in chess journalism. I still play in tournaments, but I am based in a “chess desert.” Not much action here.

      All the best!

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