Worst chess defeat

In simultaneous play, a chess master competes against multiple opponents at the same time. In 1951, International Master Robert Wade began such an exhibition match with 30 teenage schoolboys from Moscow. He would not win one game.

Robert Wade was an influential figure in Western chess circles: he earned the rank of International Master, played against Bobby Fischer three times, and coached many other British chess players. The opening known as the Wade Defence is named after him – not because he invented it but because he used it a lot.

Originally from a farm in New Zealand, Wade moved to Britain to try and develop his chess career. By 1950 he had attained the rank of International Master (one step behind Grandmaster). In 1951 he went to Moscow to watch the Chess World Championship, and while he was there he decided to do a little exhibition match with some locals. This, it would turn out, was a mistake.

Enter Soviet schoolboys: thirty of them, none older than 14. The plan was for Wade to play them all at the same time, moving from board to board in the time-honoured tradition of simultaneous play. Unused to Soviet chess training techniques, he ran into problems. The kids were winning. A lot.

After seven of (what I can only imagine were) the sweatiest and most awkward hours of his life, Wade had lost twenty of his thirty matches. The other ten were draws, but that still stands as the worst record for any simultaneous play by a chess master. In contrast, the Cuban world chess champion José Raúl Capablanca once won 102 of his matches in a 103-person simultaneous play exhibition. I bet he was really mad at that one person who fought him to a draw.

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