Chess and Gambling Go Hand in Hand

When thinking of chess players, one often thinks of bespectacled cardigan-wearing nerds huddled over a small table. Or old men sitting in the park whiling away their time, leisurely moving their pieces across the board. Upstanding, serious men. One of the last industries one would associate with chess is gambling. But in actual fact chess gambling is very popular, and the two go way back!chess-1214226_960_720

Chess actually has a long history, gambling-wise. There is evidence that in Europe, somewhere between the 11th and 14th centuries, dice was used to play chess. It is also known to have been played even earlier in Burma and India. The dice were thrown before each turn to determine the piece to be moved. Later on, the dice were removed, due to religious prohibitions on gambling.

During the 19th century, playing chess for stakes was a common thing. Stakes were no more than each player putting up a certain amount of money (or stakes put up by backers), with the winner taking all. In the cafes, such as the famous Café de la Régence in Paris, games were often played for money. The Café de la Régence was an important centre for chess enthusiasts in 18th and 19th century Europe. House masters would give odds to players to even up the game, and then they’d play for a set amount of money.

Chess is played for money every day in places like Washington Square in New York City, where chess hustlers convene. At the World Series of Poker in 2007 in Las Vegas, one of America’s most famous chess games took place. Greg Shahade – an international chess master – went head to head in a chess against Tom Dwan – professional poker player – for $50,000. To compensate for his skill edge Greg played without one of his rooks (which is, aside from the queen, the most powerful piece). Greg won the match effortlessly and later recounted games of his youth playing for $2-$10 a game.

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