I regularly read chess articles on chessbase.com and quite often I find myself struggling with the English they are using. Sometimes it just doesn't feel correct. OK, I am not a native English speaker so how can I judge... However, one sentence I have read today was just a bit too much for me and I have decided to show it here:

One would have thought Caruana would have played a containing strategy, squeezing the life from his opponent, but nothing doing as he took it right to him.

It is the bold part of the sentence that confuses me. Can you please help me to understand it? I have tried Google translate but it translates into a complete nonsense.

  • 2
    The British always confusing things...
    – Mou某
    Jun 17, 2014 at 7:17
  • 4
    Its poor use of English
    – suspectus
    Jun 17, 2014 at 7:22
  • It reads to me like speech written down. Without intonation or much punctuation it's not really very clear
    – Chris H
    Jun 17, 2014 at 11:15
  • Coincidentally, I just read the same article a few minutes ago. Never heard the idiom "nothing doing" before, so I just assumed it was a mistake (chessbase articles are good but there's always a few errors)
    – Bort
    Jun 17, 2014 at 13:23
  • @Bort I've heard "nothing doing" like once or twice before. The memory is very vague and very old (and I'm 26), so I'm thinking it's an idiom that's not generally used anymore
    – Izkata
    Jun 17, 2014 at 18:28

5 Answers 5


nothing doing

Is idiomatic. You could read that as: no, that wasn't going to happen

took it right to him

Here "it" is "the fight". To take the fight to someone is advance on them and fight them where they are.

  • 5
    Agree with @Neil, but would add that the style of the quoted passage is less than polished. Jun 17, 2014 at 10:34
  • 4
    Specifically, "took it right to him" is sports idiom/jargon, and should probably be avoided in other contexts. "Nothing doing" is more common and more generally used, but should be considered informal to the point of verging on comical.
    – keshlam
    Jun 17, 2014 at 12:37
  • 1
    @keshlam I would never consider "took it right to him" to be a sports idiom. What sport? It's more of a fighting phrase which could be applied to sports, or politics, or games, or anything.
    – DCShannon
    Jun 17, 2014 at 20:26
  • @keshlam, chess is recognized as a sport by the IOC, even though it isn't an Olympic sport. :)
    – Brian S
    Jun 17, 2014 at 20:53
  • 1
    Both parts of the phrase are idiomatic and would be unexpected in a mortgage agreement or the leader page of the Financial Times, but both are completely appropriate in a chess article. I don't think there is anything stylistically wrong with this passage (although it has not been written with consideration for non-native speakers).
    – jwg
    Jun 18, 2014 at 9:28

...would have played a containing strategy,

Caruana was expected to lay siege to his opponent, rather than directly attacking

squeezing the life from his opponent,

To lay siege in warfare is to strangle and squeeze and starve the enemy into submission

but nothing doing[,]

No, very emphatically he did not do it that way ("nothing doing" is very informal)

as he took it right to him.

He attacked directly and vigorously, a full frontal assault in military terms


nothing doing generally means no. So to simplify, your sentence could be changed to::

One would have thought Caruana would have played a containing strategy, squeezing the life from his opponent, but no as he took it right to him.

So, i guess it means, Caruana came to a position where his opponent could easily win him.

  • 1
    "took it right to him" vs. "containing strategy" - took it right to him means that his way to play was a straight out attack.
    – Mou某
    Jun 17, 2014 at 7:22
  • In fact @user3306356 is right. Caruana crushed the opponent without giving him any chance.
    – user80393
    Jun 17, 2014 at 7:36
  • 1
    I think no is a poor rendering of nothing doing. A better explanation is "that isn't/wasn't going to happen".
    – ErikE
    Jun 17, 2014 at 18:34

The sentence was confusing because it uses multiple idioms and has poor punctuation.

I would have punctuated the sentence like so:

One would have thought Caruana would have played a containing strategy -- squeezing the life from his opponent -- but nothing doing, as he took it right to him.

A translation to more straight-forward English:

One would have expected Caruana to play defensively, but instead he did the opposite and attacked very directly.

The phrase "nothing doing" is a very emphatic "no". It's associated with failure, indicating that something didn't do what it was expected or supposed to do, but instead did "nothing". In this sentence, one's expectation of a defensive strategy is what failed.

The phrase "took it right to him" means attacking directly. "It" refers to "the fight", in the phrase "took the fight to him". This indicates that, instead of hanging back and having a long-range fight or waiting for the opponent to approach you, you approach them and begin fighting. In essence, you have moved the fight to their location, i.e. took the fight to them.


Other phrases with a similar meaning to the idiomatic "nothing doing" are "not at all", or "no way":

...squeezing the life from his opponent, but not at all as he took it right to him.

In addition to meaning just "no", "nothing doing" is an emphatic no. (Britannica.com/dictionary)

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