Royal Rules for Sprightly Skittles

A word often used when referring to casual or off-hand chess games is “skittles”.  This term was more prevalent in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but should be somewhat familiar to chess enthusiasts nonetheless.  The implied use is in playing chess for fun or without a clock.  Areas for competitors to go and play for fun while awaiting their next pairing in a tournament were sometimes referred to as “skittle rooms”.

The following informal and somewhat comical guidelines for engaging is such a game was published in an 1891 local newspaper by an unnamed member of the Manhattan Chess Club.  It was elegantly titled “Royal Rules For Sprightly Skittles”.

  1. 1. Always impress your adversary with the belief that you have beaten recognized players.
  2. 2. Lead off with P to K4 with a careless swing of assurance.  It will set your opponent thinking, and it is a move that has won a great many games.
  3. 3. Always attack your adversary’s Queen when you can.  You may waste a move, but it will worry him, which is always advisable.
  4. 4. On the other hand, when your Queen is attacked, regard the move with contempt, and reply instantly with an unexpected and entirely irrelevant move.  This will give color to the suspicion that you are planning a Morphian combination beyond the discernment of your antagonist, who will accordingly refuse to take the Queen.
  5. 5. When through an oversight you have lost a piece, any hesitation in making your next move will be fatal.  Therefore, answer quickly, keeping up the impression in your adversary’s mind suggested in advice 4.
  6. 6. Never resign until you are mated, and even then you may induce your antagonist to let you take back the last three or four moves, and still win.
  7. 7. When your opponent’s game is hopeless, let him try all the moves at his command; this can do no harm and will give you a reputation for liberality.
  8. 8. Finally, check whenever you can.  It may be mate.

SOURCE: Yenowine’s News (June 28th, 1891)

In the spirit of the aforementioned discussion, shared below is a brief and somewhat reckless off-hand (or “skittles”) game that took place at the Brooklyn Chess Club between the accomplished F.M. Teed and a local amateur in 1891.

GAME SOURCE: New York Sun (October 31st, 1891)

2 responses to “Royal Rules for Sprightly Skittles”

  1. Kimber Clyde Turner

    Interesting “rules”. It almost looks like it was all said in jest.

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