What is the origin of the term “cooked” for a chess problem with an additional, unintended solution?

  • 2
    I have no evidence but I suspect a deformation of the French word "coquille" that has a meaning of "flaw, unintentionnal mistake".
    – Evargalo
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 8:56

2 Answers 2


Some theories:

  • Eugene B. Cook - Problem solver who could detect flaws in many compositions
  • "The term (cook) was first used in connection with chess by Kling and Horwitz in their magazine The Chess Player, 1851, p.40. Mr. Alexander's [Alexandre's] collection of two thousand problems contains many faulty positions, and we shall now and then cook some of them, which may amuse...many of our readers." The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld
  • But it is not clear that Kling used the term in the way the OP uses it. There are one or two indications that his use meant 'to make a faulty problem sound'. Dr. Law, in his chess column in Sheffield and Rotherham Independent cited Kling to that effect, but as that is several years later (from 1883) than the first mention, the possibility of contamination must be remembered.
    – user30536
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 12:39

E. Winter has collected several attempts at explanations in his Chess Notes. See C. N. 4341, 6460, 10493 .

You can also find an overview of his other notes on various subjects at https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/factfinder.html .

I can add that Cook is reported to have used the word in the same (or at least a very close) meaning of 'analyzing a problem/study closely and discovering an unknown fault' in his comment on a 20-mover ("The Columbus Egg" by Lichtenstein) published in New York Clipper on 7/17/1858. Cook's solution (in 10 moves) was accompanied by the line “the ‘Egg’ was rotten and wouldn’t stand Cooking.” (see the notes to the solution of problem 117, the solution that was "by E. B. C. only.")

Added: Kling's use of the term seems to have been related to improving a faulty problem. See http://www.anders.thulin.name/posts/cookery/ for a fairly late reference.

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