Wikipedia Don’t Lie

by admin on March 25, 2011

When I was writing my most recent post, I learned a few things about Wikipedia. First of all, I was unaware that Wikipedia has a Featured Article every day, probably because I never actually enter Wikipedia through the “front door.” I always end up there as a result of a Google search. However, if you type and click on “English,” you’ll see the front page and the day’s Featured Article.

As you might guess, it’s not easy for an article to get Featured; fewer than one article out of a thousand achieves this honor. So far, four articles on chess have been Featured. They are:

Another thing I was only vaguely aware of was the group of mostly anonymous people who write and curate most of the Wikipedia chess articles. They are called WikiProject Chess. One of the most prolific contributors is Frederick Rhine, whom I mentioned in my last post. He has written two of the above articles, the one on Gossip and the one on the first-move advantage.

One of the reasons I’m mentioning all this is that I think Wikipedia is a new form of chess journalism. I suspect that most Wikipedia users, like me, think of the site as a quick and dirty source of information (with emphasis on both “quick” and “dirty”). Few of us would think of turning to Wikipedia as you would turn to a magazine — for example, reading the Featured Article of the day for entertainment as well as education. Because we have such a utilitarian view of Wikipedia, I’m afraid that some good writing goes unappreciated.

Of course, the fact that the contributors are mostly anonymous makes it even harder to appreciate them. You can look up the history of an article, but this doesn’t always tell you who wrote it, or even whether it had a single primary author. And even if you figure out the primary author, they usually write under a pseudonym. Rhine’s pseudonym is “Krakatoa.” The only reason I was able to identify him positively as the author of the articles on Gossip and the first-move advantage is that he mentioned them on another website,

So, kudos and thanks to Frederick Rhine/Krakatoa, as well as to the WikiProject Chess team! Good job!

The WikiProject Chess page also has some great statistics about the relative importance and popularity of the chess articles on Wikipedia. There are 3554 chess-related Wikipedia articles in all. Of these, 49 have “Top” importance (e.g., Bobby Fischer), 167 have “High” importance (e.g., Immortal Game), 756 have “Middle” importance (e.g., Human-computer chess matches), and 2502 have “Low” importance (e.g., Parham Attack and Two Knights Defense, Fried Liver Attack. Oh, no! Say it ain’t so!). Finally, 80 articles are considered of “Bottom” importance.

Ironically, several of the “Bottom” importance articles are among the most popular chess-related pages in Wikipedia! Four of the five most popular articles and 10 of the top 25 are “Bottom” in importance. You’ll see why when I show you the top ten most popular chess-related pages on Wikipedia. This data is for the month of February, 2011:

  1. Benjamin Franklin. (Huh?!?!) This gets 10,667 views per day.
  2. Chess. 5089 views per day.
  3. Stanley Kubrick. 4979 views per day.
  4. Humphrey Bogart. 4818 views per day.
  5. Aleister Crowley. (Who?!?! Apparently if you’re a Brit, you know who he was.) 4042 views per day.
  6. Deep Blue (chess computer). 3104 views per day.
  7. En passant. 2388 views per day. Every one of them an angry beginner who wants to know what their opponent (or their computer) just did to them.
  8. Garry Kasparov. 2346 views per day.
  9. Bobby Fischer. 2273 views per day. Bobby Fischer is no longer the world’s most famous chess player!
  10. Marcel Duchamp. 1936 views per day.

So now you can understand the prevalence of “Bottom” importance articles at the top of the list — these are mostly celebrities who happened to play a little chess.

Here are some more statistical tidbits. In all cases, “popularity” is measured in terms of hits on their Wikipedia pages.

Who are the most popular chess world champions? Well, as noted above, Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer lead the pack. Viswanathan Anand, the current champ, is next at 957 views per day (#18 among all chess-related pages). After that follow Vladimir Kramnik (#50), Anatoly Karpov (#51), José Raul Capablanca (#68), etc.

Who are the most popular non-world champions who are known primarily for chess? (i.e., not movie actors like Humphrey Bogart) Magnus Carlsen (#22), Judit Polgar (#67), and Josh Waitzkin (#69).

What are the most popular openings?  The Sicilian Defense (#34), the Ruy Lopez (#53), and the King’s Gambit (#83! Hooray!).

Here are some interesting head-to-head popularity contests. See if you can guess who is more popular …

  1. The Internet Chess Club or the Free Internet Chess Server?
  2. Richard Réti or Siegbert Tarrasch?
  3. or
  4. The Englund Gambit (1. d4 e5) or the Elephant Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5)?
  5. Stepan Popel or Viktors Pupols?
  6. “Cheating in chess” or “Solving chess”?
  7. Mig Greengard or “The Week in Chess”?
  8. Rybka or Fritz?

And here are the answers.

  1. FICS, 56 views per day; ICC, 54 views per day.
  2. Réti, 71 views per day; Tarrasch, 65 views per day.
  3., 141 views per day;, 24 views per day.
  4. Elephant Gambit, 25 views per day; Englund Gambit, 20 views per day.
  5. Popel, 13 views per day; Pupols, less than 8 views per day. The eleven-time North Dakota champion beats the three-time Washington champion.
  6. “Cheating in chess,” 65 views per day; “Solving chess,” 19 views per day. If you didn’t get this one, you haven’t been paying attention to my blog.
  7. “The Week in Chess,” 11.8 views per day; Mig Greengard, 11.1 views per day. However, Mig can take consolation from the fact that his competitor, Mark Crowther, doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.
  8. Fritz, 417 views per day; Rybka, 349 views per day. At last Fritz beats Rybka at something!

If you want to browse the popularity statistics and make comparisons of your own, here is the URL. Have fun!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Goeller March 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for this fascinating post. I did not know about the feature articles at Wikipedia and will have to make them a regular part of my browse. I actually had stumbled upon the Gossip article myself recently (perhaps via also) and have regularly admired the useful chess content on the site — especially information about obscure chess players. Funny: just a few years back, every time I would mention Wikipedia on my blog or use it for a reference, some bozo would leave a comment telling me that it was “not a trusted source” — or, in one case, that my reference to it told him “everything he needed to know about me” — I guess in terms of my lack of journalistic integrity or something. But now I don’t see that reaction as much. I think people are starting to notice that it is a pretty useful source on some things and better than any other in some cases.


Frederick "Krakatoa" Rhine April 7, 2011 at 10:01 am

Thanks! It’s nice to get a little recognition. My Wikipedia user page is at I am also an occasional contributor to


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