Chess pie and Fischer's cake

by Arne Kaehler
5/8/2020 – Many people are staying home now, more than ever. Baking bread has become a very popular activity in these times. Did you know that there is a cake recipe called the "chess pie"? Did you also know, that Robert Fischer has once received a cake, which looked like one of his played chess games? Chess can be such a sweet experience.

Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Bobby Fischer. On this DVD, a team of experts shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion.

Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenco delves into Fischer’s openings, and retraces the development of his repertoire. What variations did Fischer play, and what sources did he use to arm himself against the best Soviet players? Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s particular style and his special strategic talent in annotated games against Spassky, Taimanov and other greats. Karsten Müller is not just a leading international endgame expert, but also a true Fischer connoisseur.


What is a chess pie?

John Denver - Take Me Home, Country Roads

The chess pie is a southern pie from the United States of America, and that might be the only thing we can say for sure about this piece of cake. Most of the sources on this pie lead to Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats. The former first lady probably got this book out of England, where it was written in the 17th century, according to culinary historian Karen Loft Hess.

There are several funny and interesting theories of why the pie is called chess pie:

  • It was traditionally served to the gentleman before they retreated to another room to play chess.
  • Due to the high amount of sugar, the cake was most commonly stored in chests at room temperature making it a chest pie. Those chests were pretty common back then.
  • One cook was asked where the delicious smell is coming from, and her answer was – “It's jes pie” leading to "chess pie"
  • Another cook was asked a similar question, as what the pie was made of - "Anything in our chest" was her answer.
  • It is an old tart coming from the English town Chester, where it was called Chesster pie.
  • It could also be, that the British cheese cake was pronounced differently in American English - more like Chess Cake.

The most popular explanation is this one, taken from Sarah Belk [Simon and Schuster:New York] 1991 (p. 367-8) from Lynne Olver's website:

The cheese etymology seems the most likely one, because in old cookbooks, cheesecakes and pies that were sometimes made with cheese sometimes without (referring to cheese in the textural sense - lemon card, for example, is often referred to as lemon cheese), are often included in a single category. A selection of cheeseless "cheese" pastries in Housekeeping in Old Virginia (1879) are made with egg yolks, sugar, butter, milk, and lemon juice - very much like chess pie filling. Sometimes called "Cheesecake Pudding" (the filling is made of yolks, brown sugar, butter, nutmeg, and brandy or rum) is baked in a crust in small tins..."

Whatever the mystery about the chess cake origin is, it is no secret that it tastes delicious! Probably because it is mostly made of sugar...

A friend of mine gave me this recipe:

From Thelma's Treasures by Susanna Thomas

1 9" pie crust

recipe in the book


  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 Half and Half cream

Meringue Topping:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Furthermore, here is a YouTube video by Southern Living:

The amount of sugar at 0:40 makes me cry

Fischer's chess cake

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.

Bobby Fischer won the US Championship 1963/64 with 11/11 points! He was just 20 years old when this extraordinary result was accomplished. Never again could this 100% perfect score be reached in the US Championship.

Game number ten against Pal Benko in particular is remarkable. So remarkable, that a chess cake with an actual position of the game was made for Fischer after the tournament.

Here is a tweet by Douglas Griffin with Bobby Fischer's chess cake.

Suren Aghabekyan tells us even more about the Bobby Fischer chess cake story:

The US Championship table from the ChessBase Mega Database

All the games played in the US Championship 1963


And the special "cake" game




Arne Kaehler, a creative mind who is passionate about board games in general, was born in Hamburg and learned to play chess at a young age. By teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess-related videos on YouTube, Arne was able to expand this passion and has even created an online course for anyone who wants to learn how to play chess. Arne writes for the English and German news sites, but focuses mainly on content for the ChessBase media channels.


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