Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

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JustinHorton
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Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by JustinHorton » Tue Dec 23, 2008 8:43 am

Has anybody got a copy of Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures? I ask because somebody was kind enough this week to mention it in a comment on an old blog post wondering why English uses the term exchange for the imbalance that all other languages seem to refer to as quality. I'd be interested to know light it sheds on the topic - or if anybody else can tell us when the term started to be used, and why.
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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by Richard James » Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:38 pm

Justin

From 100 Soviet Chess Miniatures (Clarke) p131 (my copy came from the RAF Butterworth Reference Library):

This exchange of Rook for minor piece has given us the peculiar term 'exchange' to denote the difference in value involved. One can win the exchange, although in a tangible form no such thing exists on the chess-board. In some languages there is the even more apt word 'quality', For indeed, a Rook is qualitatively superior to a Bishop or Knight; and when it is traded for one of them, the implication is that for a brief space of time the Rook's quality (as distinct from its actual qualities) will be transferred to a minor piece retained in its place. To put it explicitly, due to the conditions obtaining, a Bishop or a Knight is the better equipped piece and therefore, for the moment, of higher quality.

From the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993 edition):

win or lose the exchange Chess capture or lose a rook in exchange for a bishop or knight.

No date is given for its first usage in this context.

I'll look elsewhere and see what I can find.

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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by James Coleman » Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:09 pm

Though this doesnt really answer the question, quite a few older books that were printed in English, particularly ones written by Tarrasch etc would quite often use the term "Losing The Minor Exchange" when one side gives up a Bishop for a Knight. Though this term is not often used nowadays in chess parlance, I'd always imagined that somehow the two phrases just came to naturally sit side by side, though if anyone cares to provide a definitive answer it would be interesting !

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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by Richard James » Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:05 pm

No more about exchange/quality yet, but just discovered that RAF Butterworth (where my copy of Clarke's book came from) is in Malaysia!

RMAF Butterworth (Malay: TUDM Butterworth, formerly the RAF Butterworth & RAAF Butterworth) (IATA: BWH, ICAO: WMKB) is an air force base near the town of Butterworth in the state of Penang, directly opposite the island itself and is operated by the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

(Source: Wikipedia)

In 1964 (2 April to be precise) when the book was added to the library it was actually RAAF Butterworth, and had been since 1957, but they clearly hadn't got round to changing the library stamp.

Sean Hewitt

Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by Sean Hewitt » Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:25 pm

Is the book overdue?!

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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by Ben Hague » Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:37 pm

George Walker's book "A New Treatise on Chess" from 1832 contains a definition of the exchange (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cPXF ... A6#PPA4,M1) that fits with current usage. That's the earliest I can definitely find, although Google suggests that The Popular Educator of 1767 also uses that definition, but doesn't give enough to be sure. It's clear that it's been used for a long time though.

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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by Richard James » Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:42 pm

Sean Hewitt wrote:Is the book overdue?!
Quite possibly, Sean, but I wasn't planning to visit Penang to return it.

Which reminds me. I must return my copy of Basic Chess Endings to the library before it incurs a Fine. :lol:

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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by David Robertson » Tue Dec 23, 2008 3:52 pm

This is a discussion for obsessive-compulsives only - ie hardly necessary if commonsense is applied

There's no mystery. 'Exchange' is a synonym for 'transaction' in this context - the swapping of one sum of, say, currency for products to that value; or even the exchange of opinions, ideas, policies in another context. Any qualitative or quantitative assessment of the exchange lies in the verb applied, not the noun. Hence, one wins/loses the exchange in chess; ditto, the exchange of opinions.

Why the term the Exchange to specify the R-for-N/B transaction? Presumably because of its salience and conceptual/strategic interest in relevant games. P/P transactions are too commonplace; minor piece-for 2/3 pawns too rare; ditto Q-for-R - where 'too rare' also implies 'unworthy of special conceptual attention'. As has been pointed out, minor exchange features in the literature. And I'd make a case for coining the term major exchange too, to describe Q-for-R+R (losing?) and Q-for-R+B (winning) transactions/swaps/exchanges.

Finally, The Exchange, as we use and understand the term in chess, is just another example of 'special' or privileged use of language, a purely context-bound signifier. 'Finesse' in Bridge ('taking the finesse'); or onside & offside in cricket, come to mind. No doubt other examples abound.

David
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JustinHorton
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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by JustinHorton » Tue Dec 23, 2008 4:26 pm

Thanks to all.

The question isn't so much ""why does English say exchange?" as "why does English say exchange when everybody else says quality?". Answering that question entails a certain amount of historical research as to first traceable usages: it also involes wondering whether "quality" ever did get used in English, and of course whether "exchange" was used in any other language.
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John Cox
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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by John Cox » Wed Dec 24, 2008 2:23 am

Justin - there was a long discussion about this on Chess Notes.

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Re: Exchange, quality and PH Clarke's 100 Soviet Chess Minatures

Post by JustinHorton » Wed Dec 24, 2008 11:20 am

John - thanks. Do you know where? A brief search (Xmas Eve perhaps not the best time when you're working in a shop) fails to locate it...
"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

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