In response to an earlier question, I mentioned the 1959 book Pawn Power in Chess by IM Hans Kmoch. One of the book's most well-known aspects it that it introduced a glut of less-than-useful terminology that is rather more encumbering than enlightening. For instance, Kmoch introduces terms like dispersion, distortion, interspan, leucopenia, melanpenia, pincer lever, quartgrip, telestop and more that never really caught on. (A further sampling can be found here.)

Ultimately, Kmoch just ends up trying to be too exhaustive, giving names even to things that don't really need them, as far as understanding pawn play is concerned. In the long run, needless to say, this quirky jargon didn't really catch on in the chess literature. But I don't know that it didn't have some impact in the short term. So my question:

Did any chess books appear, perhaps not too long after the publication of Pawn Power in Chess, that did try to adopt some of Kmoch's unusual (and now largely ignored) terminology?

By the way, it seems that the Austrian-born Kmoch isn't entirely responsible for this litany of unnecessary terms. An acknowledgement at the beginning of the book reads:

We wish to express our gratitude to Dr. Walter Meiden of the Department of Romance Languages of the Ohio State University for his careful reading of the English manuscript and for his numerous suggestions both as to subject matter and to style.

You may also know Meiden from Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur by Euwe and Meiden.

  • I read the 'sampling' link above. I have never heard of any of those terms, except for the most common.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 17:32
  • 4
    If you think Kmoch's jargon is excessive, you should check out the chess books of Franklin K. Young: ‘The normal formative processes of a Logistic Grand Battle consist, first, in Echeloning by RP to QR4 and then in Aligning the Left Major Front Refused en Potence by the development of QKtP to QKt5, followed by Doubly Aligning the Left Major Front Refused and Aligned by developing QRP to QR5.'
    – bof
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 4:23

2 Answers 2


I was asking myself who else tried to use Kmoch's terminology; I never find in my books other authors using most of his terms (only some of them).

I am probably the only guy who thinks that the terminology is useful. We all are used to works like "candidates", "Luft", "Zugzwang", "passed pawns", "pawn chain". We could also say that these terms are not completely necessary, as we could always describe what zugzwang or a passed pawn is. Since we are used to these terms, we are happy to use them. We are able to save time when we can use specific terms (instead of explaining them all the time).

The problem is not Kmoch's neologisms, but the fact that he proposed all these terms in one single work. If these terms would be proposed by several authors during decades and slowly adopted by other chess author, we would today use terms like "sneakers" (an unfree pawn or fake that may become a passer through a sacrificial combination) or "wedge" (two converging chains reaching into enemy territory) without thinking about them as neologisms.

New terms are often used in specialized areas, for example in science, to facilitate communication. If you take a dictionary with biological or medical terms, you will probably perceive them as unnecessary - until you begin to work with biology or medicine.

  • In mathematics (my field), plenty of new terms are defined, and quickly wither on the vine. The survival of a term is determined by how well it aids our understanding of a particular idea. Passed pawns play a huge role in endgames, and giving them a name sharpens our understanding of them. Many (not all) of Kmoch's terms don't have that kind of importance in typical games, and therefore aren't used. "sneakers" and "wedges" simply affect the game in the same way "isolated pawns" and "outposts" do. Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 3:45
  • @NoahCaplinger I like to think of mathematics as just an extended exercise in applied terminology. Giving something just the right name really does give you an understanding of it in math. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 4:45
  • This conversation is off-topic and a moderator can feel free to move this discussion to chat. @JohnMeacham I will take a hard disagree. While it is certainly true that naming something is a necessary step in understanding it, names do not bestow understanding. I can define the cohomology of some space, maybe even use it to solve some problems, but I have minimal (if any) understanding of it. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 21:58

This doesn't quite answer my question, but I find it interesting nonetheless, and think it's worth mentioning. While Kmoch's overload of terminology can serve more to get in the way of a person's understanding than to aid it, one sort of chess player has a very different kind of "understanding" and can actually benefit from Kmoch's taxonomy: chess engines.

Sure enough, the Chess Programming Wiki has an entry on Kmoch, as well as pointers from there to other entries on particular terms from Pawn Power in Chess. So that's one place where Kmoch's terms and underlying ideas live on today. (While Kmoch makes no mention of computer chess in his work, it's worth noting that Claude Shannon's pioneering work on the subject had already appeared about a decade before Kmoch's book, so the concept itself was definitely in the air in 1959.)

In any case, my question still stands, as I am after other books written for human players.

  • Unless/until someone comes along with a book that answers the question in the affirmative, I'll leave this marked as accepted.
    – ETD
    Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 16:56

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