Taking chess to new depths [updated]

by ChessBase
11/1/2003 – A marathon underwater chess record is being attempted in Benoni (a place in South Africa – really!). Marnix Kleefmann has built a waterproof chess set for pools and bathtubs. Scientists are engaged in building a database of Chemosynthetic Ecosystems called ChEssBase. Here are a number of forgettable factoids regarding chess and liquids.

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  • A marathon underwater chess record that is being attempted at the East Rand Mall in Benoni (Gauteng, Witwatersrandis, South Africa), with over 50 divers challenging each other to games of chess. Their aim is to get into the Guinness Book of World Records by clocking up 30 hours, as the South African Star reports.

  • Underwater Chess Tournaments for 8 to 14-year-olds are being held in Mesa, Arizona. The entry fee is $15 and there are awards and prizes for everyone! If you are in the right age slot and want to participate contact the by the El Mar Diving Center in Mesa.

  • Marnix Kleefmann of the Netherlands builds a waterproof chess and checkers board which can be used in and out of the water. It is made of stainless steel and ceramic tiles, with a protective rubber rim all around. The pieces are actual rubber bath plugs (or combinations of parts of plugs). Since the board is heavy it will sink to the bottom of a pool. The inventor notes that the rubber rim around the board makes it possible to position the board suspended over the water in a standard bath-tub. Two people can take a bath together and play a game of chess.
  • ChEss (for Chemosynthetic Ecosystems) is a project to study deep-sea hydrothermal vents and their associated fauna. These rifts were first discovered along the Galapagos Rift in the eastern Pacific in 1977. The aim of ChEss is to improve our knowledge on the diversity, abundance and distribution of vent and seep species at a global scale and to understand the processes driving these ecosystems. The geo- and bio-referenced database for all species from deep-water chemosynthetic systems is called ...? ChEssBase, naturally. You don't believe us? You will find full information on ChEssBase here...

  • Aqua chess. This is a game we invented years ago. It involves setting up a chess board at one end of a swimming pool. The white player executes a move and swims across the pool. When he reaches the opposite end the black player makes a move and starts swimming. Each player must complete a full lap between moves. You can win the game by outplaying your opponent, or by out-swimming him. There are two variants: in once case you can make two moves in a row if you overtake your opponent; in the second, the purer version, he loses if he cannot reach the board before you. Try it out, it is a seriously interesting variant.

  • Speaking of variants (and liquids): shotglass chess is one of the less healthy ones around. Some listed on the recipe page are downright unsavory, but hey, the game actually has its own URL: www.shotglasschess.com/. If you are a beer person you should go for this variant. The nicest set we have found his here...

    Movie buffs will remember the famous scene from "Our Man in Havana" in which Alex Guinnes outsmarts Ernie Kovacs in a game of alcoholic chess.


After this article appeared letters kept coming in, supplying interesting new tidbits. Here are some, more will be added as they come in.

  • Casper Dahl Rasmussen or Aarhus, Denmark writes: "Dear ChessBase, regarding your article about chess and water, here comes the best joke in the world about exactly that. Question: Who was the undisputed World Champion of underwater chess? Answer: Geller! LOL LOL LOL ... Well, if you are from Denmark. Here's the explanation to ruin even the best of jokes: in Danish 'Geller' (that's how it's pronounced – it is spelled 'gæller') means 'gills' on a fish. The origin of the joke can be tracked down to the uncrowned king of chess humour in Denmark Thomas K. Christensen of Aarhus." Words fail us.

  • David Korn of Seattle, Washington writes: "Not long ago I read an article by a travel writer who wanted to visit the Szechenyi baths in Budapest to see the floating chessboards but was unsuccessfull, it was a "men-only" day. David Llada, chess writer and photographer, emailed me that he had the same problem when trying to visit with his girlfriend. Well, at least we know it's still functioning."

    Chess in the Szechenyi baths, on a men-only day

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