What Is the Number of Possible Chess Moves?

The number of possible chess moves has been estimated to be even more than the number of atoms in the universe. The number of atoms in the universe is thought to be as many as 1081, or 10 multiplied by itself 81 times, while the number of possible moves in chess is estimated to be 10120. This calculation for chess movements is known as the Shannon number. The Shannon number includes illegal chess movements and is named after American mathematician Claude Shannon, who calculated this estimation in 1950.

More about chess:

  • The first chessboard with alternating light and dark squares is thought to date to 1090 A.D. in Europe.

  • The smallest possible number of chess moves in a complete game is two for each player. A two-move checkmate is often referred to as a "Fool’s mate" because it typically occurs only against very inexperienced or weak opponents.

  • Chess games are estimated to consist of 30 moves on average, and any game beyond 60 moves is considered very rare.

Follow wiseGEEK:

Discuss this Article

Post 3

There are 43,768 moves for white and black. Not all are possible at all times; there are only 20 possible moves at first. The combinations of moves would take "forever" to count - any count is a gross estimation.

Post 2

Ten to the Eighty-first Power = 8,100

Ten to the One hundred twentieth power = 12,000.

These are not brobdignagian numbers, as one might use in quantification of all matter in the universe. Can anyone elaborate?

Post 1

Awesome post! Who knew there were so many moves?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?



Free Widgets for your Site/Blog

In 2018, Americans consumed a record amount of meat, averaging 222 lbs (101 kg) of red meat and poultry per person.  more...
December 12 ,  1901 :  The first transatlantic radio signal was sent and received.  more...