A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 31, 2011
“Always check, it may be mate” (chess adage)

"Finally, check whenever you can. It may be mate” is a chess adage that dates to at least 1889, when Hector Rosenfeld (1857-1935), a member of the Manhattan Chess Club and a professional puzzle-maker, listed it as his final chess rule for beginners. “Always check, it may/might be mate” dates to at least 1915. It is usually said in jest or is simple advice given to beginners. One should not always check (announce attack on) the King; it’s often just a meaningless check, not checkmate (the end of the game).

The principle of “never miss a check” has been cited in print since at least 1876. Citations have been published in Edgar Winter’s Chess Notes, “6416. ‘Never miss a check’” (22 December 2009) and “6432. ‘Never miss a check’ (C.N. 6416)” (30 December 2009).


Google Books
1 March 1876, The Westminster Papers, pg. 224, col. 1:
(g) Evidently, according to the popular rule, “never miss a check.”

Google Books
September 1883, The Chess-Monthly, pg. 21:
Never miss a check!?

Google Books
22 October 1884, The Chess Player’s Chronicle, pg. 169, col. 2:
(F) On the principle, “never miss a check,” White’s game is now hopeless.

Google Books
29 December 1888, Columbia Chess Chronicle, pg. 192, col. 2:
“CHECK!”
“CHECK!” “Check!” Yes, never miss a check; and don’t fail to send a check to renew your subscription to the CHRONICLE. Let this be the first and the best act of your life.

8 December 1889, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 5, col. 4:
Hector Rosenfeld, a member of the Manhattan Chess club, has published and distributed the following
ADVICE TO CHESS BEGINNERS.
(...)
8. Finally, check whenever you can. It may be mate.
(Also published in the Dallas Morning News of the same date—ed.)

Google Books
September 1901, Womanhood, pg. 287, col. 1:
A WARNING.
ROYAL RULES FOR SPRIGHTLY PLAYERS.
By HECTOR ROSENFELD.
(...)
8.—Finally, check whenever you can—it may be mate.

Google Books
November 1901, The British Chess Magazine, pg. 438:
“Sir,” I said, “I never miss a check; it may be mate.”

Google Books
July-August 1915, American Chess Bulletin, “A Problem That Is Funny” by A. J. Fink, San Francisco, pg. 159:
The author himself has given it an appropriate motto, “Always check; it might be mate.”

Google Books
Chess
By David Andrew Mitchell
Philadelphia, PA: Penn Pub. Co.
1917
Pg. 56:
Avoid giving useless checks. We do not agree with the player who said, “Always check — it might be mate.”

29 January 1933, Charleston (WV) Gazette, pg. 6, col. 2:
Rosenfeld of The Chess Review says: “Check whenever you can, it may be mate.”

Google Books
How to Be a Winner at Chess
By Fred Reinfeld
Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Crest Book
1954, 1970 printing.
Pg. 4:
Three Tests fox Checkmate
There’s an old saying among chess players:

“Always check, it might be mate!”

Usually made jokingly, this remark points up the most important feature of chess: you win by checkmating your opponent’s King.

27 April 1964, New York (NY) Times, “Chess: An Old Saw for the Novice Can Cut the Expert, Too” by Al Horowitz. pg. 28:
“ALWAYS check, it may be mate,” a phrase uttered with scorn and derision by the experts, may prove on occasion to be the soundest advice of all.

9 August 1970, New York (NY) Times,"Chess: Games from Three Continents” by Al Horowitz, pg. 92:
A clue to the solution is in the adage:"Always check, it may be mate.”

Google News Archive
22 February 1976, Toledo (OH) Blade,"CHECK! Some Terms for the Uninitiated,” Sunday Magazine, pg. 7, col. 1:
Spite check — last offensive maneuver before resignation, based on the premise that one should always check the enemy King — it might be mate.

Google Books
Mergers, Acquisitions, and Leveraged Buyouts
By Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin
1990
Pg. 834:
“Always Check, It May Be Mate”: This is my favorite chess maxim. There are two points here: (1) you never know the impact of a strategy until you try it, and ( 2) you should always give luck a chance to weave its serendipitous magic.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (0) Comments • Monday, October 31, 2011 • Permalink