World Cup 2010: Chess on the Pitch

The World Cup is approaching. It will be the most highly-anticipated chess tournament in the world. No… I’m not confused. The 32 teams going to South Africa will be pitted against each other in four groups to determine the best of the best nations in football. However, one may see the similarities between chess and football. There are two determined opponents, an ebb-and-flow with beautiful tactical skirmishes and combinations.

The game called “soccer” in North America and “futbol” in Latin America is a game with 11 of the world’s highly-conditioned athletes per side moving about the field or “pitch” and engaging in offensive and defensive schemes. These setups are similar to openings and defenses we see in chess with some offering more attacking chances (4-4-2) and others allowing for better defense (3-4-3). (See soccer formations)

The teams assembled represent the best players in the world and the best each nation has to offer. No other sport can claim such a collection of stars spanning the globe. there is the dazzling speed of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the creativity of Brazil’s Fabiano and the determination of Cote d’Ivoire’s Didier Drogba. These are three of the many marquee stars that will be showcased in the month-long tournament. The tournament will feature 32 teams with the following breakdown. Europe (13 teams), The Americas (8 teams), Africa (6 teams), Asia/Pacific (5 teams).

Didier Drogba, The Ivory Coast

Unfortunately some of the key names will be missing in this tournament for a variety of reasons. High-octane stars such as Michael Ballack (Germany), Ronaldinho (Brazil), Ronaldo (Brazil), and Klaas Huntelaar (Netherlands) will be watching from home. Instead, fans will have Thierry Henry (France), Kaká (Brazil), Gervinho (Cote d’Ivoire), Luis Suarez (Uruguay) and the USA’s Landon Donovan to watch. It should be a strong showing!

The first matches will begin on June 11th and the final match for the World Cup will be in July 11th.

World Cup (FIFA)


  1. While it is true that these videos show goal after goal, it may not be obvious (to those who never played the game) how difficult it is to get a scoring chance in top level football. Many of these games end up with low scores such as 1-0 or 2-1, but the games are filled with energy, finesse, skill and power. The World Cup is the highest level of football the world can see. Enjoy!

  2. Chess and soccer strategy do indeed seem to share a lot in common. While unenlightened futbol fans may desire go for broke attacks on the opponent’s net, skilled teams have learned that it’s important to maintain a solid positioning of their players (pieces) and only attack when a weakness appears or can be created.

  3. Exactly… what amazes me is the the ebb and flow and the fact that each team has to adjust in real time as plays are developing. The idea of counterattacks are similar in both. You can play soccer like a Petrosian and defend solidly and wait for your opponent to overextend and get numbers on the counterattack. The last goal on the Fabiano video is a good example.

  4. BREAKING NEWS!!! Didier Drogba, star player for Cote d’Ivoire broke his arm 15 minutes into a friendly against Japan. The “Elephants” won the match 2-0, but may lose the Chelsea star for the Cup.

  5. Looking forward to this so much. It’s the most unpredictable World Cup I’ve seen in a while but I am hoping to see an England Cameroon Final. I also expect USA to do well.

  6. Cameroon was surprisingly mediocre against Japan. They had some good runs like the Mbia strike that hit the post. They seem to lack cohesion.

    I’ve noticed that African teams seem to be the only ones using outside coaches. I’m not sure if that is the best formula. None of the coaches seem very passionate on the sidelines, but I’m sure they are ultimate professionals.

  7. Brazil won their opener against North Korea 2-1 after giving up a nice goal in the last five minutes. Maicon of Brazil got a nice goal from an improbable angle to give the Samba Kings the victory of margin. The Ivory Coast looked strong against Portugal and pressed for the latter part of the game. The game ended in 0-0 draw. There was a lot of talk about Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s whining and diving. New Zealand pulled level with Slovakia with a late goal. Slovakia had controlled affairs of the match.

  8. With both South Africa and Nigeria eliminated, Ghana appears to have the best chance amongst the African sides. The Latin American teams look strong, but the French and Spanish seem a bit shaky. German looks good. We will see what happens with Mexico and France later today.

  9. Interesting day. Germany’s loss to Serbia was surprising, but at this level anything can happen. Algeria’s defense held up against England. Now both England and the U.S. have to win to make the second round. Slovenia only needs a draw. In another group, Mexico and Uruguay will probably play to a quiet “GM draw” in football. A draw means both would advance.

    The U.S. pressed hard in the second half and were rewarded with two nice goals on counterattacks. They scored a third goal, but it was disallowed by the Malian referee, Koman Coulibaly. Replays shows that there was no offside and no apparent foul by a U.S. player. In fact, two U.S. players were being held in bear hugs during the cornerkick. After Landon Donovan curled the free kick in the box, Maurice Edu rifled the ball in the back of the net, but to the Americans’ surprise, it was called off. Horrible call.

  10. It is a shame that France has been eliminated while Thierry Henry languished on the bench. Why put a player of Henry’s caliber on the roster if you will not play him? Makes absolutely no sense. If the coach was making a point, then he certainly made it… France was the weakest team in the tournament.

    Update: Nicolas Anelka has been booted from the French team. The following article explains why the French team has been so poor.

  11. Ghana is even 1-1 with Australia and have a one-man advantage since the first half, but they are not playing as if to exploit the extra man. Listless play… 30-yard shots far off the mark… no cohesion… no runs at the goal. Australia has had more scoring chances than Ghana.

    Update: Austalia held Ghana to a 1-1 draw. Ghana will have a tough time holding Germany and won’t make the second round unless Australia can hold Serbia. The Boateng brothers will be facing each other for Ghana and Germany.

  12. The French team has come apart and a couple of staff persons have quit and the team refused to train in support of Anelka. Europe has crashed in this tournament as powerhouses Germany, Spain, France have lost matches and both England and Italy have been held to two draws.

  13. Brazil looked strong against the Ivory Coast winning 3-1. However, Kaka was foolish in picking up the red card. Yes… Keita acted a bit on Kaka’s forearm to the chest (and put his hands on his face), but it was still an unnecessary foul. Glad to see Drogba get the header. Gervinho should have started.

  14. Great site Daim!
    And now New Zealand has held current world champions Italy to a draw!!
    Italy may not get past the group stage?
    And NZ have only 4 pro players in their team!!

  15. Only four professional players??? That’s amazing. That is a good reason to be proud. The Italian players are playing for millions of pounds.

    The Netherlands seems to be the only European team that is in form.

  16. Interesting article about Africa’s approach to picking coaches. I had made the comment about Africa always picking foreign coaches. I’m sure not Africa is better off in this method. One question raised in the article is whether there is still a colonial idea that Africa must be led by Europeans. I hope not, but I’d like to see more African skippers in the next World Cup.

    One idea in the article is that as Africa’s world-class players begin to retire, there will be a better chance of seeing knowledgeable coaches. They also mentioned the idea that foreign coaches are free of ethnic loyalties and conflicts. Interesting points.

    Africa Hosts the Cup but Imports the Coaches

  17. What’s Gone Wrong?
    (Africa’s Cup failures)

    An interesting point made about the instability. I don’t understand how African teams go through so many coaches. See the link in previous post.

    Author Jeff Bradley makes an interesting comment about African teams being too “structured”.

    If you recall the great Cameroon team of 1990, led by 38-year old striker Roger Milla, you probably recall teams that loved the ball, played without fear and let their joy show on the field. It may be an overgeneralization, but many of the African teams have become ultra defensive, too concerned about losing their shape and not as fun to watch. Let’s face it, not even Brazil plays as beautifully as it did 20 years ago. Because the physical aspects of the game have progressed so much, it’s led to greater defensive pressure over 90 minutes and less time and space for creative players. Still, it seems the fluidity that defined some of the best African football has been lost.

    My reason for this is connected to the previous comment about coaches. They are importing European coaches who bring a structured style on the pitch and it does not bring out the best in the players. African teams should hire African coaches until they develop an identity from which they can mold. Many European coaches are teaching them to play in a defensive style and the goal production is pitiful.

  18. Asamoah Gyan (C) of Ghana celebrates with teammates after scoring in extra time during the 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match against the United States at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, on June 26, 2010. (Xinhua/Li Ga).

    Asamoah Gyan (C) of Ghana celebrates with teammates after scoring in extra time during the 2010 World Cup round of 16 soccer match against the United States at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, on June 26, 2010. (Xinhua/Li Ga)

    Ghana played impressively yesterday against the U.S., but they will need to maintain intensity when going a goal ahead. In their last few encounters, they seem to be content with a draw. The most obvious example was against Australia when they did not push for the win despite being a man up for most of the game. Against the U.S., they went a goal up and then started to play defensively giving up the initiative. Kingson made some high-level saves and the Ghanaian defense deserves the game ball.

  19. Watching Maradona and his passion for the Argentinian players, it is certainly a plus to have a coach who shares the culture, language and tradition of the players. Seeing the players and coaches singing the national anthem is powerful and it must create a bond on the bench. The coach or captain may have to invoke quote of a national hero, an ancient proverb or some national tradition to add motivation in a heated moment. Of course, the coach must be knowledgeable too. None of this is completely mandatory, but it would be ideal.

  20. Interesting pairing in World Cup final… Netherlands and Spain. I’ll have to go with Spain and David Villa. Surprising that Germany could not use their speed.

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