Foreign words in chess

“I tried to fianchetto, but his zwischenzug put me in zugzwang until he made a fingerfehler leaving his Queen en prise.”

OK, chess is an international game, played in every country.   The World Chess Federation is known by its French initials – FIDE – Fédération Internationale des Echecs.   But how many non-English terms associated with chess can you think of?   Here’s a list for starters (do you know what they all mean?).   Let me know if you can think of any more.

Term Language
Fingerfehler German
Luft German
Patzer (German)
Zeitnot German
Zugswang German
Zwischenzug German
En passant French
En prise French
J’adoube French
Trébuchet French
Fianchetto Italian
Intermezzo Italian
Isolani (Italian)
Tempo Italian
Kibitzer Yiddish
Tabia (or Tabiya) Arabic

Where the language is shown in brackets, the word is related to that language, but not directly.   ‘Isolani’ in Italian is the plural of ‘isolano’, yet is used in chess to denote a single isolated d-pawn.   ‘Patzer’ probably stems from the German ‘patzen’, which means ‘to bungle’.

I was going to add ‘Desperado’, but that seems to be an English word, although it looks as if it could be Italian.

There are of course plenty of openings with foreign names ‘Ruy Lopez’, ‘Giuoco Piano’ etc., but I’m only talking about chess terms, not openings or positions.   ‘Maroczy Bind’ would therefore be excluded from the list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *