Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This comic is comparing the opening moves of the game of chess to the opening moves of the Battle of Agincourt, which was fought between the English and the French in the Hundred Years War. In the battle, just like in the comic, the English used their longbowmen effectively, neutralizing the French knights (and later infantry). In the comic, the two pieces that are moved out of the white side of the board are both the pieces known as the Knights. And in the actual battle, the French knights on horseback attacked first. As you can see, all the pawns on the right side of the chess board have bows.
The image text is the abbreviations for chess moves. Nf3 = Knight to square F3. Nc3 = Knight to square C3. N = Knight because the King piece has the K abbreviation covered. What comes after the typical chess move is what can only be determined in a hail of arrows. And the 0-1 at the end means that "Black Wins".
The word "gambit" means "an opening in chess, in which a minor piece (often a pawn) is sacrificed to gain an advantage". In this comic, the usual gambit of sacrificing a pawn is subverted to be a sacrifice of a high-value piece, as an analogy of what happened at Agincourt.
[A chessboard. The black pawns have all gained longbows and have specifically taken down the enemy white knights]
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At the beginning of a chess game, neither knight can move to e3. The proper move (and the move actually made, in the picture) is Nf3. The Nc3 move is correct.
184.108.40.206 23:44, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
- Indeed, thanks for pointing that out; the move was corrected on xkcd.com, so I did the same here. - Cos (talk) 13:53, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
Why didn't black move? 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- He did. The lines represent black pawns raining down a hail of arrows to kill the knights. 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I seem to remember that the bows and arrows at Agincourt (and thereby taking down the horses) was something of a surprise -- as it would be in chess, as well (otherwise, they wouldn't have made their horses so vulnerable). I'm too lazy to look this up myself, so if anyone already knows a bunch about that, that'd be something to add. --Ricketybridge (talk) 23:05, 20 January 2014 (UTC)
- It was a surprise because on other terrain it wouldn't have worked (the ground was muddy, impeding cavalry, and the approach was narrow, making it a shooting gallery; under more favorable conditions for cavalry, the knights would have closed and slaughtered bowmen before the bowmen managed to take down more than a handful of them). Plus the French were stupid; obviously, they must have noticed that the terrain was not ideal, but apparently they vastly underestimated how much difference it would make. Protagoras (talk) 04:08, 9 February 2014 (UTC)