Caveman Chess




How It Happened

The nickname Caveman and the concept of caveman chess was thrust upon me in 1981.  At the time I was an Expert, working to get myself up to the National Master level.  I had just finished playing fellow Expert Jack Young at a tournament at the College of Lake County - a college that held a number of chess tournaments while I was a developing player.

Jack and I were doing a post-mortem analysis, and FIDE Master Albert Chow walked up and was watching us.  The game was fairly tactical in nature, and Jack and I were both willing to explore ideas that were "off-the beaten path".

After a few minutes of watching, Chow shook his head and said to me "You play stoneage chess.  You play like a caveman!"  Of course, my friends immediately ran with this and the nickname "Caveman" was born.

The nickname was reaffirmed the next year, during the first Midwest Masters tournament.  I still wasn't quite a master, but had been invited to the tournament by organizer Helen Warren because I was close.  After four rounds, I had a score of 3-1 with no losses.  We had calculated that at that moment I was rated over 2200, before my final round game.  While I knew I would play the last game, I had pursued a Master ranking for a long time, and had to momentarily consider whether to play the last game.

National Master Chuck Kramer commented "But you have to play the final game.  YOU'RE the Caveman."   Chuck was correct on all counts, of course.

What Is Caveman Chess?

National Tournament Director Tim Just coined the phrase "Caveman chess is chess without finesse."  While the Caveman style of chess is not solely tactical, it is considerably so.  Also, the positional play is direct.  There is very little about Caveman chess that is subtle.  Often the description is used that it is like two neanderthals standing at the middle of the chessboard, swinging their clubs at each other.  Typically, the primary form of defense is counterattack.

What it Means Today

The meaning of Caveman chess as a style of play hasn't changed, but like most players, Kevin has developed more of an appreciation for positional play as time has passed.   This was particularly reflected in his 2007 High School State Championship team.  A team with only one notably strong player, they focused on making simple, strong moves, move after move - and "letting the opponent lose."  They rode this strategy to their third first place finish in six years.

We believe and teach that tactics flow from good positional play, and use classic games to illustrate this point time and again.  Our goal is to build a sound positional and tactical foundation.  This allows a player options.  The player will be in a position to choose

  • to keep themselves at a reasonable ability with very little study, and so to maintain chess as lifelong avocation, or
  • to actively work to develop to become a stronger player.

Watch our Articles page for games and other information about Caveman-style chess.