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When explaining chess to beginners, I often use the famous rhyme, “a knight on the rim is dim”. Is there any equivalent (rhyming) phrase in other languages?

I will accept any answer which shows at least one equivalent phrase in another language.


For those who aren’t familiar with it, “a knight on the rim is dim” means that a knight, which is placed on the edge of the board, is weak.

When a knight is placed on the edge of the board, is has influence over, or attacks, only 4 squares. However, if it is placed more centrally, it controls 8 squares, which is double the amount.

Diagram showing knight placement

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  • Scratching together my last school Latin, I offhandedly came up with "Eques at ora videt ultima hora" - surely anyone can improve on that :-) Feb 14, 2022 at 16:10
  • What does this rhyme mean? Feb 14, 2022 at 20:50
  • @Panzercrisis Are you asking about the original English one or was it a question to Hauke about the Latin one?
    – hb20007
    Feb 14, 2022 at 21:11
  • The original English one. Feb 14, 2022 at 21:38
  • 1
    @Panzercrisis I edited the question to include an explanation, thanks for bringing it up.
    – hb20007
    Feb 14, 2022 at 22:06

14 Answers 14

34

German

Ein Springer am Rand bringt Kummer und Schand.

= (lit.): A knight on the rim brings sorrow and shame.

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  • 27
    This answer made my realize why the Springer logo is a knight. So it's the knight in German.
    – hb20007
    Feb 12, 2022 at 13:29
  • 9
    The saying is from Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch who was german. I believe this is the original phrase and the English is the "foreign" one. Feb 12, 2022 at 14:07
  • 3
    Sounds very Tarrasch but /needs citation/ ;-) Note that the phrase had several "mutations" (not surprising for a successful meme), right down to the mocking "Springer am Rand, Sieges Garant" (knight on the rim guarantess win). Feb 12, 2022 at 16:10
  • 4
    @hb20007 In German, the word for knight is "Ritter", the word "Springer" means jumper (someone who jumps, not the garment) but is used for the piece in Chess we call a knight. Feb 14, 2022 at 9:23
  • 1
    ''Ritter'' is ''knight'', so the chocolate brand ''Ritter Sport'' means ''knight sport''. Amusingly, the knight and rook are called ''caballo'' and ''torre'' in Spanish, although it's wrong to call them horse and castle in English.
    – Tom
    Feb 14, 2022 at 21:32
17

Russian

Конь на краю — позор на голову твою.

Literally, "a knight on the rim is a shame onto your head".

Transliterated: "kon' na krayu — pozor na golovu tvoyu".

The Russian version is just a translation of the phrase by Siegbert Tarrasch. The "на голову твою" part is unnecessary for the meaning (it's just an intensifier), but added for the rhyme.

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16

In French, I have heard "Cavalier au bord, cavalier mort" ("a knight on the rim is a dead knight").

15

The Spanish version is not the most elegant one, but there it goes:

"Con los caballos por los rincones

vas a ganar por los cojones"

Perfect consonant rhyme, which can be (liberally) translated as "placing your knights int he dims, you won't win at all".

The thing is that "por los cojones" refers in a very colloquial way to human male gonads. Also, "cojones" is used in a lot of Spanish idioms.

Here you have an article (most probably by Leontxo García) using a variant of the sentence in a 2001 game between Shirov and Anand.

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  • 16
    So roughly, Knight by the walls / Got you by the balls! Feb 13, 2022 at 19:25
  • Wouldn't it be better to clarify whose knights you are talking about? Like "Con sus caballos por los rincones"? Otherwise, this can be read as "Con (tus) caballos por los rincones" meaning that you want to keep the knights on the rims.
    – terdon
    Feb 14, 2022 at 13:35
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    @terdon "vas a ganar por los cojones" means "you are not going to win at all" or something similar. I could write "con tus caballos por los rincones", but it'd sound a bit like translated from English.
    – emdio
    Feb 14, 2022 at 13:47
  • Ah, right, sorry. I read that as vas a ganar por cojones (o sea, que vas a ganar por cierto) instead of por los cojones (ni de coña). You can imagine how confusing such similar yet diferent expressions are to non-native speakers like myself :) Either way though, I was a bit confused as to whose knights were being referred to here, but if it's clear to you and you're a native speaker, then I'm sure you know better.
    – terdon
    Feb 14, 2022 at 14:00
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    @terdon In Spanish, it's generally avoided to directly use possessives when possible as it can sound strange, for example ''lavate las manos por favor'', as ''lavate tus manos'' would sound unnatural.
    – Tom
    Feb 14, 2022 at 21:39
13

Italian

Cavallo sul bordo,

Spettacolo balordo

Literally, “a knight on the rim is an awkward spectacle”

10

Dutch

It's similar to the German version (not a surprise given the familiarity between both languages) but the Dutch version, which made Wikipedia, is:

Een paard aan de rand is een schand

which literally translated is

A knight on the edge is a shame

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  • 2
    My grandfather told me "Een paard aan de rand stelt de schaker ten schand", attributing to Euwe. It translates to: "A knight on the rim brings shame to the chess player".
    – Bob Jansen
    Feb 14, 2022 at 12:33
  • 2
    Elsewhere on Wikipedia we get a similar phrase more like @BobJansen's suggestion: "Paard aan de rand is schakers schand." Feb 14, 2022 at 14:13
  • 1
    I also found a longer version: "Een paard aan de rand is een schande voor het hele land" - Patriek Vleming
    – hb20007
    Jul 1, 2022 at 10:23
  • I have always heard "Een paard aan de rand klopt van geen kant". Although the letters don't rhyme, the sounds do
    – Irsu85
    Aug 15, 2022 at 17:59
10

In Swedish, there is En springare på randen är en springare på stranden.A knight on the edge is a knight on the beach. It seems real but not very common: searching, I find one usage in print, in the Tidskrift för Shack (Journal of Chess), 1990, issue 9, p. 404.

It’s interesting that the Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish versions all use different nouns at the end (strand, sand, spand), even though they could have used the same — at least strand and sand are the same in all three languages. From this, together with the rarity of the Swedish and Danish versions, I guess they arose independently as ad hoc translations of the more well-established German version — translating it requires changing the noun, since the direct cognate of Schand in all the Scandinavian languages is skam, which wouldn’t rhyme.

9

Norwegian

"En springer på randen er en springer i sanden."
A Knight on the edge is a Knight in the sand.

One source claims this is a (bad) translation of the Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch's German version.

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Danish

"En springer på randen er en springer på spanden"

This literally translates to "A knight on the rim is a knight on the bucket". Here, "on the bucket" is an idiom meaning "in trouble" in Danish.

6

A rhyming version in Chinese is:

马跳边,易被歼 (ma tiao bian, yi bei jian)

Which roughly translates as "A horse that jumps to the edge is easily destroyed", where horse is the Chinese name for the knight in chess.

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  • Searching for "马跳边易被歼" on Google returns many results, so this seems to be a well-established one.
    – hb20007
    Feb 16, 2022 at 17:03
5

Japanese?

ナイトの価値は縁の内。(Naito no kachi wa fuchi no uchi.)

The knight's worth is (as a topic, somehow related to) the inside of the border.

3

I mean "边缘的骑士是暗淡的" -< this doesn't really rhyme, but it sounds catchy when you say it in Chinese! :)

Basically a translation of "a knight on the rim is dim"

The pinyin is "Biān yuán de qí shì shì àn dàn de"

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    I don't think this is an actual phrase. Google has literally 1 result Feb 12, 2022 at 23:25
  • @BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft That's a good point. I tried to search on Google Hong Kong and only got the same result. Also tried Baidu and did not get anything substantial.
    – hb20007
    Feb 13, 2022 at 7:28
  • I doubt if there is an equivalence of this phrase in Chineses, given that Chinese chess, instead of chess, is way more popular in China (and in Chinese Chess, playing Knight on the rim is completely legit: there are opening where Knight is moved to the edge in move 2, 3) Feb 14, 2022 at 18:54
  • @ArcticChar I see your point. Chess is less popular than Xiangqi and Go in China. However, China is massive, and even if a small % of the population plays chess, it might still be a big enough number for chess books and schools to exist. So the phrase might exist. Also, Chinese is spoken in other countries like Singapore.
    – hb20007
    Feb 14, 2022 at 22:12
3

Portuguese:

"Cavalo no canto só traz desencanto."

Or

"Cavalo na beira é besteira".

They mean respectively,

A knight on a corner brings only bad news, and A Knight on the rim is foolish".

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Turkish

"Kenar atlar sakat atlardır".

It means "Knights in the edge are crippled horses".

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  • I tried to search for it on Google but there are no results. Is this an established phrase?
    – hb20007
    May 5, 2022 at 18:42
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    it's not common, but i heard this sentence in some Turkish videos. May 7, 2022 at 16:57

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