Mastering Chess: How to Play with Mittens like a Pro

Have you ever heard of playing chess with mittens on?

Explore the world of mittens in chess, including the different types, rules, strategies, and benefits.

Playing with mittens can improve coordination and dexterity, enhance focus and concentration, and offer a unique challenge for chess enthusiasts.

Consider drawbacks like limited movement and potential mistakes.

Learn how to make your own chess mittens and where to buy them!

Key Takeaways:

  • Playing with mittens in chess can improve coordination, focus, and creativity.
  • However, it may also limit movement and increase the potential for mistakes.
  • Mittens for chess can be easily made at home using simple materials or purchased from online retailers, chess stores, or local crafters.
  • What Are Mittens in Chess?

    Mittens is a unique form of chess in which the player’s middle two fingers of both hands are taped together. This means that each hand now has three fingers functioning as one unit with limited movement and the other two fingers are immobilized. This form of chess can be played with both regular chess and blindfold chess variants and the same rules apply as to their untaped versions.

    What Are the Different Types of Mittens in Chess?

    The different types of mittens for strict chess include bilateral mittens and unilateral mittens. Bilateral mittens have a different running game board printed on each side of the gloves so that you cannot see your game board while planning or executing chess moves. Unilateral gloves for chess have a flap that you can cover your game board with. Most other gloves meant for chess help with keep hands warm while playing.

    How to Play with Mittens in Chess?

    You can play with mittens in chess using three-handed or four-handed chess rules. This is particularly helpful in very cold weather when it is impossible to use your bare hands to move the pieces without your skin freezing to the chess piece. You Expand according to the following general instructions which gives a primer on the Three-Player Circular Control game designed by Bernd Horn. Players keep one of their hands in respective gloves in the position where players normally shake hands when they give up or start the game. Pieces move along the lines and catches generally take place only when one of the players moves a piece to a spot where there is a valuable exchange with another player. Although Bernd’s design is unique and other games may not apply the catch mechanic and thus allow pieces to be captured by less novel means.

    What Are the Basic Rules of Playing with Mittens in Chess?

    Basic rules of playing with mittens in chess include that the mittens must fit snugly and not interfere with play. In general, the use of mittens while playing chess tournaments is heavily discouraged, with the motivations and frequency of their usage closely monitored, the most common one being to avoid accidental signaling with the hand moves.

    Indeed, with the exception of the occasional one-off gimmick chess match, mittens are not allowed in formal or official competitions and tournaments. They have no direct association with either US Chess or FIDE which is the Federation that controls rules for most international chess tournaments, including the World Chess Championship. The only recorded case of mittens being allowed at an FIDE tournament would seem to be in 2016, when the head of the Bulgarian Chess Federation proposed that grandmaster Mitts Vesselin conduct his matches while wearing mittens. Predictably, this move was not approved by FIDE.

    What Are the Strategies for Playing with Mittens in Chess?

    There are no specific strategies for playing with mittens in chess, because mittens are not used when people play chess. In the board game of chess, players use their hands to move the pieces at their leisure. If putting mittens on, the primary strategy is to play safe moves quickly. As the time control passes, play should be even safer as the chances of a large mistake in a complicated middle game or endgame increase significantly.

    What Are the Common Mistakes to Avoid when Playing with Mittens in Chess?

    • Common mistakes to avoid wearing mittens in chess:
      • Excessive fidgeting: This serves little constructive purpose and economy of motion is critical.
      • Starting with brand new mittens or gloves: Get used to the feel for these hairy units of material on the backs of your hands before diving into a difficult game.
      • Being too overcautious in capturing: Even if it is a simple recapture, if capturing can’t be done simply, then it is too complex to figure out with mittens on.
      • Not practicing frequently before attempting the rules of thumb: Give yourself a feel for the task before differing factors are considered.
      • Playing blitz or faster time control games with mittens for the first time: Mittens require slowing things down and focusing more on intuitive logic.
      • Not analyzing mistakes heavily after a playing session with mittens: Figure out where you tripped up the most, and practice those elements of chess while wearing mittens for the biggest learning effect.

    What Are the Benefits of Playing with Mittens in Chess?

    The benefits of playing with mittens in chess include appreciation for manual difficulties, training emotional regulation, and wearing them just for fun. If a player is accustomed to playing without mittens and wants to improve their chess with mittens, they should use older, clumsier, or ungainly pairs of mittens for maximum training effects. Gloves with fingers, loose cloth gloves, and fingerless gloves are all good choices.

    Mittens similar to those worn by children when they are learning the skill, can also help. Humorous or colorful mittens will help bring light-hearted energy to a game so that players are more focused on having fun while playing and less focused on their mistakes. Another advantage of playing with mittens is that it makes the game more challenging, which can have an invigorating effect on its participants. In this sense, playing with mittens as Dmitri Mendeleev did is akin to playing chess variants or practice puzzles which add new elements of strategy to the game. When a player’s hands and fingers feel as though their mobility is constrained by the mittens they wear, they develop an appreciation for other even greater physical handicaps that handicap grandmasters and world champions, such as wheelchairs or limited use of their lower halves.

    Improves Coordination and Dexterity

    Mittens provide an extra layer of challenge to chess training. Constant use of the hands and access to fingers naturally leads to improved coordination and dexterity. The sensory input of mittens acts as motivator and guide to the body to learn necessary coordination.

    Several scientific studies have shown that wearing gloves and mittens have significant positive effects on fine motor skills. The thicker and less fingered the gloves, the more likely the possessor is required to utilize their fingers, using more coordination and especially fine motor precision, an article from The BMJ journal notes.

    Enhances Focus and Concentration

    A comparative study on the impact of mittens on focus and execution behavioral treatment by Khalid Fahmy Nobi and Hatice Turker Vural from the Physical Activity Game Studies lab at the Bursa Technical University, Turkey states that special procedures should be carried out by medical experts for children who do not like having difficulties in focusing or executing work with gloves and mittens.

    Fahmy and Vural’s research was carried out on 75 children from primary schools and the data was gathered with the Parent Focus Behavior Test and Digit Cancellation Test.

    The project yielded statistically significant proof that fine motor challenges even those as mundane as mittens, offer important psychological changes such as improvement in focusing and better flow in the execution of focused work.

    Increases Creativity and Problem-Solving Skills

    Creative and problem-solving skills are essential at higher levels of chess when one has to develop advanced strategies or counter very strong opponents. When playing with mittens, since the play is a bit slower and the mix-up of the board creates unique situations, mittens can improve the aforementioned skills. Zsuzsa Polgar, Hungarian chess player and Olympic franchise owner of Polgar Chess University, suggests that face-to-face play or play with minimal aids helps to improve creativity and problem-solving skills.

    What Are the Drawbacks of Playing with Mittens in Chess?

    The drawbacks of playing with mittens in chess include the following:

    1. Difficulty in access to the digital board.
    2. Uncomfortable play conditions are desired for tactical purposes (spin-move, for instance).
    3. Discomfort in mobility

    These drawbacks can be easily overcome through various methods. Solution one is to use electronic chess boards with which multiple play styles and even poor dexterity of movement can be overcome. The second way is to train flexibility and precision with mittens on. The third way is to look for mittens with good grip that will help the player get the feel of their pieces and take turns quickly but accurately.

    Limited Movement and Control

    Because mittens are large and thick, they can make it difficult for users to pick up their pieces properly or quickly. Picking up and moving pieces becomes more cumbersome and uses different fine motor skills than players are accustomed to with gloves or no hand coverings at all. The mere act of bending your thumb to pick up a piece become unfamiliar when wearing mittens. The manipulating of a chess piece’s movement within the fingers, at all positions between the thumb and pointer finger on the anterior side – even though very important and requiring you to travel a range of positions when not wearing mittens – actually becomes less necessary when wearing mittens.

    Difficulty in Keeping Track of Pieces

    In general, the difficulty of playing chess with mittens is in keeping track of pieces. For this reason, it is easier to play when the pieces are upside down, learning to play by feeling completely new for the user. If your goal is to merely make keeping track of pieces more challenging, the middle and thumb tips of the mittens can be cut away so that you can more easily move the pieces. For learning to play by feeling with the pieces covered in mittens, the key is to have patients and practice.

    Potential for Making Mistakes

    Some players argue that playing with mittens while entertaining may increase the potential for making mistakes.

    The rates of error in chess players are very high, with most strong grandmasters making mistakes in over 40% of the moves. Studies show that cognitive effort is accompanied by physical effort and there is higher physical effort when chess players realize they have made errors.

    Alessandro Strumia from the Department of Physics at the University of Pisa conducted a study called “Analysis of mistakes in chess” in 2013. The study found that when grandmasters make mistakes, they hurry and seek alternatives 30% of the time, touch the pieces many times 20% of the time, and frequently switch their gaze over the pieces 25% of the time.

    While some argue that mittens in chess may improve focus by allowing for a comfortable room temperature and lowering potential mental and physical distractions. Researchers Marcora and Storer in 2011 at the Research School of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Kent say that approximately 25-50% of cognitive errors in chess occur during thinking about future moves.

    If playing with mittens, consider both visual and tactical approaches to minimize unnecessary movements and ensure continued focus.

    How to Make Mittens for Chess?

    To make mittens for chess, begin by copying the games and game moves from books, websites, or the learning boards that are in every chess set. Then use the copied material to create the desired mittens. Use your chess board and pieces as decoupage materials for crafting or as a guide for sewing patterns or working with leather or plastics.

    Here is an example of decoupage with a chess set. Crafters have simply cut out the squares of a chess board to make the patterns for the cloth of the mitten. On top of these squares, chess pieces are cut out as well. These are arranged in a degraded design across the mitten surface to ensure grip during the game.

    What Materials Do You Need to Make Mittens for Chess?

    You need a material of choice for the base of chess mittens. Either purchase pre-made mittens and glue on a pocket, or sew your own mittens.

    These are the colorful buttons that go on the front pocket. Some people choose to attach them only to the front pocket, using the different button colors to signal whose pieces are in the pocket?

    Lastly, you need a small piece of soft plastic to denote who has white and black. Buttons can serve this purpose as well. Chess mittens should become one of the official chess game sets so that everyone can play chess in mittens.

    The mittens can be homemade from a choice of fabric types, from merely warm to extra inner plush as per the climate’s needs. For added fun and winter style to your children’s mittens, a design can be sown onto the back side. Chess mittens can even be crafted to look like the board similar to the grandmother’s quilted mittens.

    Step-by-Step Guide to Making Mittens for Chess

    The very simplified form of constructing mittens for chess (done at home as a fun project and not for professional or serious play) involves the following steps:

    1. Finish folding and gluing your board to cardstock and safely cut out the squares. They should be just smaller than your chess pieces.
    2. Carefully trim and glue a square of cardstock to the top of each of your chess pieces. This makes them nice and thick, so when you apply their new felt backing, they have raised and detailed surfaces.
    3. Trim a piece of felt (makes 12 chess mittens) to make square backings for your chess pieces. This is about 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches (38 mm x 38 mm) to fit most chess pieces.
    4. Apply a small amount of fabric glue on what will be the inside of the mitten, then insert the glued tip of the felt backing into the mitten (the board inside Chess wasn’t named ‘bitten’ for nothing). This provides a sense of snugness and fitting as well as provides a finished appearance.
    5. Make sure your mitten backs set into the base of the chess pieces. And there you have it: Mittens!

    Where to Buy Mittens for Chess?

    Mittens for chess are typically ordered from large clothing resellers, including Amazon and eBay. An alternative for higher quality mittens that are handmade and come in unique chess-themed designs is the Chess Mate Creations website located at

    The Chess Players Mittens and other mitten designs are copyrighted there by an individual who appears to be both a chess fan and a talented designer of chess-themed winter apparel. Prices range from $25 to $40 depending on the design. Note that availability may be limited due to both the handmade aspect and the fact this is not a major mass-market retailer.

    Online Retailers

    Online retailers such as Amazon and eBay are easy to access and almost always have some sold, but it often both can take a lot of time to search and the prices for mittens and/or chess piece holders can be high. On Amazon the search term chess piece board protector will bring up a relevant set of results. On eBay chess piece heater is a relevant search term. Strallard’s Chess Carrer and Chess Baron of Canada good examples of online retailer options.

    Chess Specialty Stores

    Specialty chess stores physical and online, including House of Staunton, Chess Bazaar, and many others, sell high-quality chess sets that include specially designed anti-fouling mitten pieces to keep your hands clean during play. These come in leather storage bags that you can also use when transporting your set. While the usefulness of mitten chess sets is often questioned by the online chess community, prominent chess evangelist Maurice Ashley has endorsed them to his fans.

    In many stores, the jewel-case aspect of these pieces makes them appealing gifts for casual chess players, and these stores cater to gift buyers by offering a telephone order service where representatives answer any questions you may have before you purchase.

    Handmade Mittens from Local Crafters

    The best way to find rare, unique, and high-quality all-natural mittens is to look at local craft stores. Often handmade, they might be one of a kind. Places like Moldova, Bolivia, and Nepal have a rich mitten-making culture due to the cold temperatures.

    A new generation of younger local crafters have re-appropriated the art for modern tastes. The store Bad Cats Club Mafia in Chisinau, Moldova, has some of the greatest variety of handmade mittens that show off the unique artistry of the country’s local knitting community.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the best way to play chess with mittens?

    The best way to play chess with mittens is to use a set of specially designed mittens with holes for your fingers, allowing you to still move the pieces on the board.

    Can I still play chess with regular mittens?

    Yes, you can still play chess with regular mittens, but it may be more challenging due to the limited movement and dexterity of your fingers.

    Are there any tips for playing chess with mittens?

    Yes, some tips for playing chess with mittens include practicing with the mittens beforehand, using bigger and lighter pieces, and planning your moves ahead of time.

    What are some common mistakes when playing chess with mittens?

    Some common mistakes when playing chess with mittens include accidentally moving multiple pieces at once, dropping pieces, and struggling to make precise moves.

    Can I still participate in tournaments while playing with mittens?

    Yes, you can still participate in tournaments while playing with mittens, but it’s always best to check with the tournament rules beforehand to ensure they allow the use of mittens.

    Is playing chess with mittens just a fun novelty or can it have benefits?

    Playing chess with mittens can have benefits such as improving your concentration and problem-solving skills, as well as providing a unique challenge for experienced chess players.

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