# How Many Possible Chess Games Are There?

Chess is a game of strategy that has been played for centuries. The statement that the number of possible moves in a chess game exceeds the number of atoms in the universe sounds astounding, even exaggerated. Yet, this claim has been echoed by many enthusiasts for years, adding to the game’s mystique. So, how many possible moves can you make in chess?

When experts and enthusiasts claim that the number of possible moves in chess is greater than the number of atoms in the universe, what they are truly referring to is the incomprehensible quantity of unique games which can be played in chess. That number is 10^120, known as the Shannon number.

The number of possible moves refers to the number of legal moves that can be made. On a single turn, a player makes 30 possible moves on average. In the opening position, each player has 20 possible moves. In an entire game, each player can make thousands of possible moves depending on the position, type of the pieces on the board, and other factors.

In this article, we will delve into the complexity and depth of the game of chess and the various factors influencing the number of possible moves and unique games.

## The Mind-Boggling Complexity of Chess: Exploring the Number of Possible Games

It’s essential to note that the number of possible moves and the number of possible games in chess are not interchangeable concepts. It’s vital to make this distinction because while the number of possible moves is immense, it pales compared to the number of possible games.

The number of possible moves refers to the number of legal moves that can be made on a single turn or in an entire game. In contrast, the number of possible games refers to the number of unique sequences of moves that can be played from the starting position.

This distinction emphasizes the astounding complexity of chess and the seemingly limitless potential for creative gameplay.

The magnitude of the number of possible games in chess is staggering, estimated to be around 10^120, which is the Shannon number. To put this in perspective, this number is so vast that it exceeds the number of atoms in the observable universe by a factor of 10^40.

It’s mind-boggling to think that a board game consisting of only 64 squares and 32 pieces can produce such an enormous number of unique games.

However, it’s essential to understand that this number is a result of the exponential growth of possible move combinations, with each player having an average of 30 moves to choose from at each turn.

It’s worth noting that not all possible games are realistic or valid. But even a tiny fraction of this number of games would be impossible to explore completely.

This realization only highlights the remarkable complexity and depth of the game of chess, and why it continues to be a favorite of both amateurs and masters alike.

## Understanding Legal and Illegal Moves in Chess Tournaments

A legal move in chess follows the game’s rules, which differ for each chess piece.

Pawns can move one or two squares forward on their first move, then only one square forward after that, and capture diagonally.

Knights move two squares in one direction and one square perpendicular to that.

Queens can move in any direction along a straight line or diagonally, while bishops can only move diagonally.

An illegal move is a move that violates those rules. In tournament play, making an unlawful move may result in a penalty, such as a time deduction or forfeiture of the game.

## Clarifying the Difference Between Possible Moves and Positions in Chess

The number of possible moves is not equal to the number of possible positions on the chessboard.

The number of possible positions on a chessboard is the number of unique arrangements of pieces on the board, regardless of whose turn it is or what the next move might be.

It’s determined by the number of squares on the board and the number of possible configurations of the pieces. With 64 squares and 32 pieces, the number of possible positions is estimated to be around 10^43.

On the other hand, the number of possible chess moves depends on the pieces’ specific position on the board. Therefore, the number of possible moves in chess can vary significantly from one position to another.

## So, How Many Possible Moves Are There in Chess?

Now that we have made the distinction between the number of possible moves, number of possible positions, and number of possible games in chess, it’s time to dissect the main question, “How many possible moves can you make in chess?”.

In chess, the number of possible moves for a player depends on the position of the pieces on the board and the number of pieces each player has left. Each chess piece has its own set of possible moves, which can be different from other pieces, and the number of moves a piece can make depends on its type, position, and other pieces on the board.

In the opening position, the first player has 20 possible moves on their first turn since they can move any of their eight pawns one or two squares forward, and any of their two knights can move to two possible squares. This gives a total of 16 possible pawn moves and four possible knight moves.

The second player has the same number of possible moves on their first turn, so the total number of possible moves in the opening position is 40.

The total number of possible moves in a single chess game usually reaches thousands, depending on the position of the pieces on the board. While not all moves are equally good, this shows the incredible complexity and depth of the game and the vast number of possibilities that can arise from a single game.

## Summary

We have explained the difference between the number of possible moves, positions, and games in chess. We have also addressed the fascinating question, “How many possible moves can you make in chess?”

The number of possible moves is the number of legal moves that can be made on a single turn or in an entire game. In contrast, the number of possible games refers to the number of unique sequences of moves that can be played from the starting position.

The number of possible positions on a chessboard is the number of unique arrangements of pieces on the board.

The number of possible games in chess is estimated to be around 10^120, also known as the Shannon number. It’s due to the exponential growth of possible move combinations.

The number of possible moves in chess depends on the position and type of the pieces on the board and the number of pieces each player has left. On average, a player makes 30 possible moves on a single turn. In the opening position, the number of possible moves for each player is 20. But in an entire game, a player can make thousands.