There is a chess player called Aron Nimzowitsch who has this famous quote: “The isolated Pawn casts gloom over the entire chessboard.”

I don't know what the casts gloom part means, so I don't understand what it means and I play chess a lot.

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    Have you looked up the individual words?
    – Cascabel
    Nov 1 '20 at 17:27
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    It is very similar to cast a shadow over. Although the gloom is an effect on the player really, not the board, as the chess set itself does not have emotion. Nov 1 '20 at 17:28
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    Hi @Cascabel I know what gloom means and I had an intuitive definition of cast because I'm a programmer (type casting), and I play MMORPG (cast a spell), so I didn't before, now you said it I did and it clarifies it. Thanks for the obvious suggestion that I overlooked.
    – newbie
    Nov 1 '20 at 17:30
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    It also goes to common words like broadcast, but many people have lost sight of the original meaning....
    – Cascabel
    Nov 1 '20 at 17:36
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    @newbie: I'm guessing from your final sentence that you will know enough to say whether or not it's likely that a game on a board with an isolated pawn will be boring / poor quality / over too quickly or otherwise "defective" from everyone's perspective (both players and any audience). Nov 1 '20 at 18:28

I'm a passable chess player, but I'm not quite sure why an isolated pawn would "cast gloom" on the game. Whatever - here's my guess.

I'm assuming that the fact of the gloom being explicitly cast over the board, rather than one or other of the players means that there's no automatic link between which player has an isolated pawn and which player will win the game.

I think the "chessboard with isolated pawn" is similar to the situation on a snooker table where the balls are in such a position that no "positive" shot can be made by either player, so they just take turns moving the cue-ball as little as possible, to avoid giving the other player a chance to go for a pot.

When that happens in snooker, the players often agree to a "re-rack" (start the game again), but from what I know of chess you can't do that there (both players would have to agree to call it a draw, which is a recorded "game outcome").

So really, the "gloom" in OP's context is as much for the spectators as the players. In some way that I don't know enough to explain, the fact of that isolated pawn means the game is likely to be boring (or otherwise of poor quality).

  • I like the context you gave and the example. However as anything in chess depends on the context, an isolated pawn on an ending is one thing and depends a lot on what pieces the other player has. But I'm guessing that Aron meant that in the opening it probably will be something that the opponent will try to take advantage of by attacking it with as many pieces as he/she can, resulting in what it COULD be a low quality game. Maybe the quote is not as good as I thought it was xD I believe he is talking mostly about the importance of pawn structure, in a sort of poetic way.
    – newbie
    Nov 1 '20 at 18:37
  • I don't get that. Are you saying you think it's clear-cut that a player with an isolated pawn is likely to lose the game? If so then I can see how that player might be gloomy, but surely by implication the other player would be as happy as Larry! In which case the total net position is simply "neutral", not "gloomy". Nov 1 '20 at 18:43
  • ...OR are you saying that a chess writer / analyst (who doesn't necessarily care who wins the game) would think that a game with an isolated pawn is somehow unlikely to be an interesting one for him to work through? Nov 1 '20 at 18:45
  • When researching the quote, I found another: “He who fears the isolated queen’s pawn should give up chess” – Siegbert Tarrasch. Nov 1 '20 at 19:04
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    I deplore the closure of this question. The discussion - which veered too easily into secondary speculative detail of chess play - shows it to have been relevant to context, usage and meaning.
    – Anton
    Nov 2 '20 at 8:07

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