Chess and Sex – The Survey

Stuart Conquest

Sexually motivated assault at chess events is a serious subject. I myself have often been a victim. A well-known English GM has on several occasions groped me from behind in the presence of witnesses. ‘Later, Jim,’ is my usual response.

When I played 26 Rh8+! versus Bobzin at Bern 1993, Janis Klovans, a Latvian IM who was playing on the next board, reached over and gently squeezed my knee. I like to think that he had already seen 29 Rh8+! (the second rook is sacrificed on the same square) and 30 Nh7 mate. In any case, I chose not to call over the controller, although the incident was reported in the Independent on Sunday.


Conquest – Bobzin

Bern 1993

White to play

More common is assault by the opposite sex, such as when Susan Maksimovic grabbed my hand during our game in Corfu, 1991. It was only when she said ‘I resign’ that I properly understood.

A certain friend of mine made the pages of Private Eye and received offers from Playboy after allegedly revealing an inappropriate amount of breast during a title match in South Australia. She won.

And at Benasque in Spain last year a fellow participant saw fit to tell me at the start of round 3 that I looked like I had ‘just done it’. He was absolutely correct. I won the game, but not the tournament.

Which brings me to this special Kingpin survey, a reminder to all of us that sex is a vital part of the game, whatever the ECF might say.

According to a recent poll (conducted by me) six out of ten chess players think about sex at some time during an average length game. Personally, I find this statistic quite shocking – I had always assumed that the true figure would be close to 100 per cent.

Do most chess players not possess unusually fertile imaginations? Do we not spend most of our waking hours living in a world of fantasy? Of course, it is possible that the ten members of Sea Mills Chess Club who responded to my questionnaire do not form an accurate cross-section of the British chess-playing public; at a future date I intend widening the net to include the entire Bristol and District League, although the results of such a sensitive survey may never be published (not in Bristol, at any rate.)

So, if we accept the six-in-ten figure as being an absolute minimum for a typical four-hour, 40-move game (one imagines that for rapid chess and blitz this ratio will fall – few people think about sex during five minute games; conversely, the implications for correspondence players, many of whom have 40 or 50 games going at once, are rather alarming – this is an obvious area for future research), what is it about chess that brings out the lustiness in us? Is there something inherently erotic about the game, or do we just get bored from sitting in the same place for so long?

Might there be something Freudian about a long diagonal? And why does it feel so good to put a rook on the 7th when the 8th is generally available? It was in precisely such grey areas that I wanted straight answers – partly to build up a realistic sexual portrait of the typical British chess player, but mainly just to hear some dirty stories.

And so the ‘Sea Mills Six’ who had answered ‘Yes!’ to my first question (‘Do you think about sex during an average game of chess?’) went on to answer others like it, the results of which are set out below.

One or two points before we start. All six respondents have given me full, written permission to select, edit and manipulate their answers as I see fit, but I am not at liberty to divulge their names and addresses. This much I can tell you: the six are of masculine gender (the four candidates who answered ‘No!’ to my original question are all aspiring members of Sea Mills Junior Girls’ Team; since they were thus ineligible to complete the rest of the survey, the following questions have all been constructed with a male slant to them – it would have been fascinating to discover the girls’ responses to the equivalent ‘female’ questions, but their silence on this occasion must be respected … I’m sure that future research will deal with this problem). Other details (incomes, appearances, dental records) remain private and confidential, and not even a stamped addressed envelope and a ten-pound postal-order will guarantee next-day delivery of such classified information.


According to a recent survey (conducted by a friend of mine) reading surveys such as this one is the best practice there is for compiling and analysing your own surveys later on. According to the same survey, that’s not true at all. Later, the survey clearly indicates that both premises are wrong, finally concluding that the whole thing was a poll, not a survey, and hence was invalid. My friend gave up doing surveys after that, because he felt that he lacked certain poll and survey skills. According to a recent survey, conducted by me, he was right.

Do you ever think about chess whilst having sex?

(a) Not qualified to answer [2]
(b) Rarely/only if I’ve had a difficult game that day [1]
(c) Very often [3]


I wanted to establish whether the chess/sex association worked the other way around too. The three ‘Very oftens’ went on to say that they frequently visualised complicated middlegame positions in order to prolong the act of love-making, although when challenged to recall specific examples (e.g. the game Planinc-Minic, Portoroz, 1973; the position after Black’s 22nd move) they were unable to do so. One theory (currently being investigated by me) is that sexual positions and chess positions may contain subtle links, a likely explanation being that the same part of the brain is almost certainly required to understand either. The two who were ‘not qualified to answer’ expect to join the ‘Very often’ category by next Spring.

At what stage of a chess game are you most likely to think of sex?

(a) During the opening [1]
(b) During the middlegame [1]
(c) During the endgame [0]
(d) During the opening, middlegame, and endgame [3]
(e) Only when in acute time-trouble [1]


A mixed response, although I felt that under cross-examination it should be possible to put all six respondents into (d). The candidate who fantasises during time-trouble has admitted that he finds it an extremely sensual experience to watch the little flag on his clock gradually be raised by the big hand as it approaches the number twelve; unsurprisingly, he does lose an inordinate number of games on time. My advice to him was to only play with modern, digital clocks, and not to eat so many oysters.

In a critical position in a tournament game you suddenly become aware that the woman with whom you’ve been flirting all weekend is standing right behind your chair, watching. What do you do?

(a) Bash out an impressive-looking move, and stand up to talk to her [3]
(b) Play something insipid, offer a draw (optional), and then talk to her [0]
(c) Ignore her completely [0]
(d) Ask her for advice: what does she think about bishop takes queen? [1]
(e) Lean back with outstretched arms, ‘accidentally’ touching her legs [2]
(f) Draw little hearts all over your scoresheet [0]


A disappointing set of replies; the votes all went to the blatant ‘Route One’ options, when gentle restraint (b) (c) might have won both game and lady. (e) is difficult to perform, but has been known to succeed. (d) is cheating, unless it is done out of earshot from everyone else, in which case it is still cheating, but at least no one will find out. (f) will win the affections of most 15-year-olds, boys and girls. My personal choice? – (c), of course.

Maria-1WGM Maria Manakova

You find yourself paired against the tournament beauty in the last round of a major international; it is a game you have to win, in order to qualify for the next stage of the World Championship. After three moves she leans across the board, moistens her lips and yours, and purrs softly into your ear, ‘Let’s call it a draw and go back to my place.’ What do you do?

(a) Call it a draw and go back to her place [4]
(b) Call it a draw and take her to a cheap hotel, in case it’s a trap [1]
(c) Say, ‘Some other time, baby,’ and play on [0]
(d) Stop the clock and fetch an arbiter, accusing your opponent of misconduct [0]
(e) Offer her lots of money to throw the game, then go back to her place [1]


Fairly predictable, this one. A professional player like myself would, regrettably, be compelled to choose (d), although most arbiters would react by giving me a First Warning, and awarding an extra five minutes to my opponent as compensation for my disturbances. (e) is a gross infringement of chess ethics, albeit with good intent.

An identical scenario, only this time she is the one who needs to win. Her exact words are: ‘Let me win and you can do it to me the whole night long.’ Your response?

(a) Blunder all your pieces in successive moves [3]
(b) Play alternate good and bad moves, keeping her guessing [2]
(c) Offer a draw, suggesting that you’ll settle for only half the night [1]
(d) Fetch an arbiter, as above, perhaps this time offering him a bribe [0]
(e) Put on your designer shades, insert ear-plugs, take out your gum, grimace slightly, and play a mean game of chess [0]
(f) Say, ‘Let me win, and I’ll let you do it to me all night [0]


I find it rather disgraceful that half the respondents are prepared to throw a game of chess in return for the promise of rampant sex. The other three are certainly keeping their options open, so that, theoretically at least, all six could end up back at the poor girl’s place of residence on the same night. Are male chess players really so corruptible? If you can’t trust a man to play an honest game of chess, what can you trust him with? (Not your wife or daughters, evidently.) I may be forced to pursue further, undercover investigations into this delicate area, checking last round games up and down the country, perhaps even disguising myself as an alluring young female, trying to expose the scoundrels who are blighting the moral integrity of our great and noble game. I need hardly add that my own response would be (e).

The 17-year-old Puerto Rican au pair girl from next-door-but-one asks you to escort her to a special masked ball being hosted by a local modelling agency. Unfortunately, you have already agreed to play in a critical Away match for the Club that night; the team needs to win to avoid relegation, and you know that it will be impossible to find a replacement at such short notice. What do you decide to do?

(a) Thank her for her kind offer, but explain that your chess club needs you [0]
(b) Take her to the match, saying that she’ll have ‘loads more fun’ this way [0]
(c) Arrange to play your game in a roped-off section of the masked ball, or, failing that, in the lavatories of the masked ball, perhaps charging people 10p to watch [1]
(d) Compromise – take her to the cinema instead [0]
(e) Call your team captain and make a phoney excuse, e.g. bereavement, heart trouble, kidnapped by aliens, etc. [3]
(f) Go to the ball, call no one, and see how things look in the morning [2]


Another shocking set of answers, confirming all my worst fears. The mystery of the Decline and Fall of the British Chess Club is a mystery no more; indeed, a well-trained army of Puerto Rican girls (or, doubtless, from other parts of the globe) could wipe out our entire chess culture in a matter of weeks – I suspect that even our Grandmasters may be vulnerable, though I have no real evidence of that at this early stage, of course. (Future researchers take note.) Rest assured that the appropriate authorities have been forewarned (the Anglo-Puerto Rican Au Pair Support Group, the British Masked Ball Association, etc.) in an effort to trace any covert campaign being currently waged against the chess clubs of this nation. Be on your guard! And if you do suspect anyone (in particular, young, attractive girls) then do let me know, and remember to enclose a recent photograph of the suspect party (this is important). All correspondence will be in strict confidence – you do not even have to give me your name. Photographs will not be returned.


Your doctor diagnoses that you are suffering from a rare, nervous disorder, caused by excessive stress and physical neglect. He advises you to give up either chess or sex for six months, to help protect your weak heart; failure to do so could cost you your life. How do you react?

(a) Change your doctor [1]
(b) Change your chess style: play as boringly as possible in every game [0]
(c) Change nothing – you haven’t had sex for years [2]
(d) Make a will (leaving your unfinished Best Games collection to the New Bodleian Library at Oxford), and adopt an unceasing regime of sex and chess (in that order) – what else do you have to live for? [3]
(e) Tell your wife/mistress(es)/girlfriend(s)/keep-fit instructor that she’ll/they’ll/he’ll have to go without for six months [0]
(f) Give up chess and sex, and join a monastery (or the National Trust) [0]


It is pleasing to note that most players make chess a higher priority than the state of their health; in fact, the very notion of a committed chess player going to their doctor for a check-up almost defies belief. (Here we will have to assume that the doctor is young, lithe, and female, and asks her patients to ‘go behind the curtain and remove your clothes, please’. In the opening question, therefore, for ‘He advises you…’ read ‘She advises you…’ etc.) The three takers for (d) are on their way to the Great Chessboard In The Sky. The keep-fit instructor at (e) didn’t register any votes this time around, but on a secret ballot I would expect him to feature more prominently.


A worldwide chess dating agency is set up, for male and female players. You are asked to describe the ideal partner that you would like to meet. Remember that the only people in this scheme are chess players.

The six responses were as follows:

(a) Any of those Hungarian sisters. Or that Chinese girl. If she’s got to be British, whichever one has the highest rating.
(b) She should be fairly small, brown hair, dark eyes, with a gentle and easy-going manner; she should enjoy walks in the country, classical music, going to the theatre, and spending quiet evenings at home by the fireside, and she should play the Nimzo-Indian Defence.
(c) The girl I saw at the Woolacombe Congress last year, in the Minor section.
(d) Tall. Blonde. Large breasts. Nice bum. Aged 17–25. Any grading.
(e) She must be passionately interested in all aspects of chess, including chess in art, chess in literature, the history of chess, chess philately, chess in films, and chess composition (especially Serieshelpmates and retrograde deduction problems). She must possess an extensive chess library, and have an over-the-board strength of a top ten county player, although an experienced correspondence player would also be adequate. Age, appearance, and personality are unimportant.
(f) I am 40, single, balding, broke, and never meet any girls at all. I am useless at chess, and at everything else too. I am bored senseless, have no friends, and have absolutely no prospects. If you would like to share your life with me then please answer this advertisement. Photo not required.


Since the time of conducting this survey, number (f) has been spotted out on the town with a girl called Phoenicia, from Sea Mills Art College. The other five remain more or less unattached.

It is predicted that within 25 years it will be possible to choose the sex of your chess computer. In which ways will this technological development increase your enjoyment of the game?



(In view of some of the replies received, which were not, in my opinion, suitable for open publication, this part of the survey has had to be withdrawn. I have decided to leave the question itself intact, because I feel that in the privacy of one’s own home, or with specially vetted members of one’s chess club, and never in front of the children, the subject matter might lend itself to a most wholesome and invigorating discussion.)

At a 4NCL weekend you are getting yourself a cup of tea when your female opponent walks by and touches you on the hip, telling you it’s your move. What is your reaction?

(a) Complain to the controller [0]
(b) Complain to your opponent [0]
(c) Refuse to continue the game [0]
(d) Leave the building [0]
(e) Tell the media about how this disgusting behaviour has scarred you for life [0]
(f) All of the above [0]
(g) Return to the board, tea in hand, and calmly consider what to play [6]


A tame question, of little or no interest to the panel.
And finally…

Be honest – which do you prefer when it comes down to it: chess or sex?

(a) Chess [0]
(b) Sex [6]


As if we didn’t already know. Perhaps a wider choice of alternatives would give a better spread of favourite hobbies and habits (e.g. chess/sex/football/pubs/ Sunday roasts/gardening/rollerblading to church in the nude, etc.), but even there one feels that chess will be [0] and sex will be [6]. According to a newly commissioned poll-survey (conducted by me), chess always scores [0], whenever sex is included anywhere in the same list. Of course, I am not permitted to take part in my own surveys, or else this cruel statistic might be challenged; new research will ask why I can’t take part in my own surveys, although since this is also a kind of survey, someone else will have to conduct it, I think. I’ll poll some people and find out.

My thanks to all at Sea Mills Chess Club (including the Sea Mills Junior Girls’ Team, even though they didn’t add their voices to the throng on this occasion), especially to the six volunteers, for taking part in this delicate and sensitive survey, the first of its kind in the civilised world (according to a recent poll, that is). And good luck for next season, lads.


First published in Kingpin 30 (Spring 1999)



  1. pete yawn says:

    Chess is way more important than sex

  2. Daunte Carter says:

    I myself am a 48-year old male chess player seeking a relationship with a female chess player who loves the game as much as I do. I have no children, and no side or hidden relationships, no girlfriends. I’m. looking for marriage and a life-long commitment. If any woman is interested leave me a comment below.

  3. S.B. Cohen says:

    An incredibly long article about nothing.

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