By CPT (or better: the Chess version thereof) if a game is opened by Black, you can transpose it to the standard version (by swapping board, colors and move rights) and there is no visible difference. I somewhere read that the Immortal indeed was played this way. I googled a bit, it seems that the convention that White begins was first proposed by master Löwenthal, i.e. is not that old at all!

Can a historian help out about a) when "White moves first" was canonized worldwide (pre-1st version of FIDE rules?) and b) if the Immortal indeed was played with Black moving first?

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    Very interesting rabbit hole to investigate. Thank you for this.What is proof that the immortal was played with Black first? I have seen reporting from that time that shows black moving first, is that sufficient? Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 17:31
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    @MichaelWest: The proof is my computer-like memory :-) I even so much leaned out of the window to assert it matter-of-factly when I wrote a mini-article on CPT in chess and physics. Ergo, someone wrote it somewhere in the gazillion chess books I read and had so much reputation I trusted it point blank. I estimate it was about 30 years ago, so politics (see the linked article) were a non-issue in this matter then. Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 8:36
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    The sobriquet "Immortal" refers to a game Anderssen-Kieseritzky, played on 21 June 1851 in London, during a break of the first international tournament. [Wiki] Wikipedia also states that Anderssen played with the black pieces.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 11:17
  • @RosieF: Ah, this factually answers my specific question, the book I read probably was aware of the Kling/Horwitz book. Didn't know that Wiki link existed. You live, you learn. Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 16:27
  • A bit of digging shows that in the US it was in the 5th American Chess Congress of 1880 when the rule was first inscribed in the Code of Chess Laws (theconversation.com/…). Commented May 21, 2022 at 0:32

2 Answers 2


This is only a partial answer to your first question. It was common practice, but not a rule, by 1862. It appears that the first time this was made a rule in a major tournament was the year 1880.


Partial answer:

In Staunton's Chessplayer Handbook, published in 1847, the rules section (Chapter V, The Laws of the Game, starting p35) describes many nuances, even about odds games or the consequences of failing to say "check", but omits to say which side should play first.

However, all the games are presented with White playing first. This seems like a form of evidence for Staunton, who writes at the beginning of the first example (chapter IX, p51-52):

In this game, as in all the analyses that follow, the reader will be supposed to play the White Pieces and to have the first move, although, as it has been before remarked, it is advisable for you to accustom yourself to play with either Black or White (...).

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