On an oil rig? You gotta be kidding!

by ChessBase
4/4/2014 – Indeed we were, in the traditional spirit of April Fool (or "April Fish", as the French call it). The announcement that the Carlsen-Anand 2014 World Championship match would be held in the middle of the North Sea was a carefully faked hoax by a ChessBase editor. We've been perpetrating April pranks for at least thirteen years now, and provide you with links to all of them. Prepare to waste a lot of time.

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ChessBase April Fool pranks

The April Fool prank has become progressively more difficult over the years. Of course it is easy to fool people with some unverifiable made up report ("Chess banned in North Korea"), but it misses an essential ingredient: the joke should be funny. And if you construct a genuinely funny story, our friends at Google usually make it possible to detect as a hoax within minutes.

It may interest you to know that we did contemplate using the above pictures, and make it into Kasparov project to introduce a new chess table "that still need some fine tuning". But it did not yield enough for a full-blown prank. And another idea, which is really good, was just too big and slightly premature. We will probably use it in 2015.

Anyway, we decided to settle for funny and entertaining, instead of difficult to research. We did not fool many readers, just a very few, like the one who wrote: "This is too crazy and too much distraction from serious chess. I hope that the idea will be dropped. Chess should be played on land." Here are a few other reactions:

Paul Lillebo, Asheville, NC, USA
The selection of the oil rig became inevitable once the 10th century viking king, Erik Bloodaxe, returned as oil minister. It's just his style.

Boldizsar Fejervari, Budapest
Unless Magnus has forgotten Norwegian, and the VG editors are all semi-illiterate, this is a very well thought-out April hoax, the kind I have been waiting for.

paras mishra, india
i m ur reader for last 13 years. ur finest april fool article was when u solved the kings gambit accepted which fooled me. [Tks par y shd wk o ur orthography]

Hans-peter Muller, Sydney, Australia
please excuse my somewhat indelicate enquiry, do the hammocks come in queen or king size as well? thinking of taking my partner along. very excited and congrats to all involved!

Paul Rachlin, Tarrytown, New York
I learned also from a Norwegian friend that DGT is making a special chess board that is magnetized to keep the pieces from moving when the seas start to swell!

Steve Goodman, United States
One of your best April's Fool stories yet!

Francesco Tosi, Italy
Last year's April Fool joke was much better (stifling a yawn). Please, do try harder.

Marc Polonsky, Berkeley, USA
I just want to thank you for the wonderful, brilliant april fool hoax article this year, which was probably your silliest and funniest one yet. I laughed so hard—and indeed am still chuckling—at the oil-rig-themed chess set. I even showed it tonight to a non-chess-aficionado friend and he laughed hard too, and also laughed at much of the rest of the article. (“The price for the helicopter shuttle includes orange suits and swim vests.”) You had me going for a minute in announcing that the match would be in Norway. I thought, how typical of FIDE! It seems to me that four of the last five WC matches took place in the home country of one contestant or another. (I count Moscow as home turf for Boris Gelfand, because that is where he cut his chess teeth.) My first reaction was indignation—they’re doing it again! But then I got to the stuff about the oil rig and remembered what day it was. You really the sweet spot on the funny bone this time. I hope you had half as much fun creating it as people like me did reading it!

The April Fool tradition

Almost all countries have a day very much like the April Fool's Day we all know and indulge in. On this day dignity is discarded and everyone plays practical jokes. Americans do their fooling on April 1 because the early Scottish, English, and French settlers brought the custom with them. Also known as All Fools' Day, the occasion provides pranksters of every description an opportunity to play a wide variety of jokes upon their friends and neighbors.

ANCIENT ROME: The custom of playing practical jokes on friends was part of the celebrations in ancient Rome on March 25 (Hilaria). The timing seems related to the vernal equinox and the coming of spring a time when nature fools us with sudden changes between showers and sunshine.

ENGLAND: In England, tricks can be played only in the morning. If a trick is played on you, you are a "noodle". Widespread observance in England began in the 18th century.

SCOTLAND: In Scotland, April Fools Day is 48 hours long and you are called an "April Gowk", which is another name for a cuckoo bird. In Scotland, April Fools Day is 48 hours long. The second day is called Taily Day and is dedicated to pranks involving the buttocks. Taily Day's gift to posterior posterity is the still-hilarious "Kick Me" sign.

FRANCE: In France, the April Fool's is called "April Fish" (Poisson d'Avril). The French fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their friends' backs and when someone discovers this trick, they yell "Poisson d'Avril!"

SPAIN: Dia de los Santos Inocentes is held in Spain on December 28th. This is The Feast of the Holy Innocents. It is celebrated similarily to April Fool's Day, with practical jokes.

AMERICA: The English, Scotch and French introduced the custom to their colonies in America. One of our forefathers' favorite jokes was to send someone on a "fool's errand." For example, one might have been asked to go out and obtain a copy of "The History of Adam's Grandfather," or bring back some "sweet vinegar."

MEXICO: The "foolish" tradition is celebrated in Mexico, too, but on a different day and for different reasons. "El Dia de los Inocentes," which is December 28, was set aside as a day for Christians to mourn Herod's slaughter of innocent children. Over time, the tone of that "unluckiest of days" has evolved from sadness to good-natured trickery.

"The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year. " ? American humorist Mark Twain.

Previous ChessBase April 1st pranks

We warn you: it is possible to waste massive amounts of time by clicking on the links below to explore our misdeeds of the past twelve years. If you start exploring you do so at your risk.

4/1/2002 – New Fischer moves
Although the reclusive ex-world champion Bobby Fischer has not played much chess in the last 30 years, he has introduced a number of important innovations into the game. After the Fischer Clock and Fischer Random Chess he is now proposing a further change, the "Fischer move". It was presented to FIDE and will come up for a vote at the Executive Council meeting in Dubai. More...

4/2/2002 – Fischer moves – a cruel hoax!
Yesterday we posted a report on a new rule proposed by Bobby Fischer and under consideration by FIDE. To our horror we have discovered that this was a cruel hoax, perpetrated by an evil prankster in the ChessBase team. Apparently he was practising a pagan ritual know as "April Fool". We apologise to the visitors who for who found the spurious article distressing, and thank everyone for the many letters we we received. You will find some excerpts here.

4/1/2003 – The bionic chess interface
Remember Brutus, the "mini-Deep Blue" that is being developed by ChessBase? Two years have passed since work on the chess chip was started, and many chess fans are becoming a little bit impatient. What is taking so long? As the director of the project, Dr Christian Donninger, reveals, the whole endeavour has moved in a different direction.

4/2/2003 – 'Please don't touch my hippothingy!'
That was the kind of rejection we got from some readers to yesterday's news story on a bionic chess interface (which was repeated in Slashdot). The report was not completely true. First of all the release date ("the beginning of the next year") was inaccurate – Fischer and Ivanchuk are already testing implants. And apparently there are a lot of rats playing chess already – on the chess servers. More feedback.

4/1/2004 – Kimo – an 'intelligent' approach to chess
Traditional chess programs blindly search millions of positions to find good moves. A new chess program due for release this month breaks with the tradition. It works with chess knowledge derived from 20,000 master games. Tests with a beta version show that in spite of some glaring defects Kimo is able to hold its own against the world's strongest programs. Details...

4/4/2004 – Kimo unmasked – a misleading approach to chess
It turns out that our April 1st review of a knowledge-based chess program from Russia, while not directly false, seems to have been written in a way that could create false impressions. Apparently some prankster had once again engaged in the pagan ritual of deceiving our readers on a certain day of the year. Here is the truth, which we hope you can handle.

4/1/2005 – Amber 12: Bareev beats Anand 2-0 in first round Kriegspiel
He may have finished at the bottom of the table in the Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament, but Russian GM Evgeny Bareev started with a stunning 2-0 victory over Vishy Anand in the Kriegspiel section which started today in Monaco. He and Peter Leko (2-0 against Svidler) are expected to dominate. Full illustrated report.

4/3/2005 – April 1st: Forbidden draws or kriegspiel tournament?
It happens to us, year after year. We always forget that at the beginning of this month people are celebrating a pagan ritual known as "April Fool". And each time we are tricked by some malicious prankster in the ChessBase news team into publishing an article that is gratuitously false. This year the evil-doer acted in a particularly devious fashion.

4/1/2006 – ChessBase: no more April Fool's jokes
In the past years our web site has published a series of elaborate April Fool's stories. Not this year, and not any more. An international watchdog group which calls itself League for Truth and Veracity, is threatening news services as well as private pranksters all over the world with lawsuits for publishing false information. This unfortunate activity spells the end of an old tradition.

4/5/2006 – 'League for Truth and Veracity' – a meta-prank
Apparently there is no such organisation. Google finds only one reference to it – in our April 1st story, which resulted in many hundreds of emails flooding our inbox. But wait a minute, amongst these were warnings and threats from LT&V. And some very entertaining efforts, like the wag who wrote: I never met a meta-prank I didn't like!

4/1/2007 – Fritz trainer: Emanuel Lasker, New York 1924
After winning the 1924 New York tournament Dr Emanuel Lasker, who was passionately interested in new technologies, recorded his comments on the games using the fledgling new technology of talking movies. The film material was recently recovered and digitally remastered. We have turned it into a Fritz Trainer DVD with twelve video lessons. You can order it now.

4/7/2007 – Production of Lasker trainer cancelled
On April 1st we reported that ChessBase was planning a new Fritz Trainer DVD, using 1924 film footage shot with Emanuel Lasker. It turns out that this was a cruel hoax by members of our staff who were following a pagan tradition known as "April Fool". At the same time some serious news regarding the FIDE ratings was misidentified by our readers as the intended prank. Retractions.

4/1/2008 – Just uncovered – Fischer's Electronic Archives
Two and a half months after the death of the great chess legend Bobby Fischer, the examination of his legal estate has yielded some intriguing information, gleaned from the hard disk of his notebook computer. Apparently the reclusive former World Champion followed the chess activities of his colleagues quite closely, and in fact corresponded with a few of them. Today we received copies of his letters.

4/2/2008 – Fischer's Electronic Archives – just an April 1st hoax
It was simply too good to be true: Bobby Fischer corresponding with all the great players in the past years, giving them tips and lines to play in their games? Fischer secretly responsible for all the dramatic novelties over the past years? Naturally this was a carefully crafted prank with no basis in reality. Tragic but true. Most readers spotted it immediately. Here a selection of their letters.

4/1/2009 – Training Enhancement – New product line by ChessBase
After dropping its efforts to make chess an Olympic discipline FIDE has now abandoned its "doping tests", so that players will no longer be hounded by medical officials after their games. The decision allows our company to release a new line of Training Enhancement products which until now it had to hold back due to the IOC restrictions. Order now or first read more about our new products.

4/3/2009 – ChessBase Training Enhancements – an April 1st hoax
Yes, yes, everybody recognised it as such within seconds. But since we only published the story in the late afternoon, our readers had ample time to jump to the conclusion that some of the other stories were jokes. Specifically: "Kiss the Queen" by Ivanchuk and the crazy game Hübner-Rogoff. We bring you some new insights and a lot of delightful letters from our readers.

4/1/2010 – Magnus Carlsen's cousin in America
Two weeks ago we published an interview by the German magazine Der Spiegel with Magnus Carlsen, with a picture that one of our readers found familiar. "He looks remarkably like my son," thought Professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige of Lesley University of Cambridge, Massachusetts. After a little research we discovered that the two are second cousins. Guess who the American relative is.

4/4/2010 – Which was our April Fool's prank?
On the first day of this month our readers expect us to produce a fake news report. We published three stories on April 1st, one about the Large Hadron Collider and the concern it has raised in some grandmasters; the possible exhumation of Fischer's remains; and the discovery that Magnus Carlsen was the second cousin of Hollywood actor Matt Damon. Did you guess right?

4/2/2011 – ChessBase news – back to normal
It was, of course, just an April Fool's prank. Not the Zhu Chen Magnus Tyrannosaurus story, though that was indeed quite incredible, coming exactly at this time. No, it was the idea that we could put the unbearably gaudy, blinking, flashing adverts on our page. We are now switching back to normal, with a special link for people who liked the blinky stuff, plus a selection of feedback messages.

4/2/2012 – Rajlich: Busting the King's Gambit, this time for sure
Fifty years ago Bobby Fischer published a famous article, "A Bust to the King's Gambit", in which he claimed to have refuted this formerly popular opening. Now chess programmer IM Vasik Rajlich has actually done it, with technical means. 3000 processor cores, running for over four months, exhaustively analysed all lines that follow after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 and came to some extraordinary conclusions.

4/4/2012 – The ChessBase April Fool's prank
Over the years – over a decade, actually – it has become progressively more difficult for us to hide our traditional (and very popular) April Fool's stories. And keep them entertaining in the process. Armed insurgents with advanced Google searches and forum discussions are waiting to hunt them down. This year we used a particularly devious tactic involving the South Pacific town of Pago Pago.

4/10/2012 – The ChessBase April Fools revisited
Our report on the busting of the King's Gambit was well received. Normally we get between a few dozen 50 Facebook "likes", but this one recorded almost two thousand. And Alexa listed us as one of the top 10,000 web sites in the world for the first time since the London Chess Classic last December. Today we bring you more feedback from our readers, as a humorous interlude.

4/1/2013 – FIDE April 2013 ratings – and reform plans
Vladimir Kramnik lost a bunch of rating points and descended from rank two to three, exchanging places with Levon Aronian, while Fabiano Caruana gained twelve to rejoin the top ten. Apart from that nothing really noteworthy to report this month, which has led to discussions within FIDE on how to "hot up" the list. We were privy to some of their very daring plans and can tell you what is in store.

4/4/2013 – The April Fools' prank that was and wasn't
In the age of Google and social communities on the Internet it has become increasingly difficult to perpetrate April Fools' jokes that can deceive people for more than a few minutes. This year, again, we gave it our best shot, with one – some thought two – fake April Fools' reports appearing during the day, and then the real one, hidden as well as we could manage. Did you spot it?

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