1078: Knights

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 19:55, 13 September 2012 by Lcarsos (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
1. Nf3 ... ↘↘↘ 2. Nc3 ... ↘↘↘ 0-1
Title text: 1. Nf3 ... ↘↘↘ 2. Nc3 ... ↘↘↘ 0-1


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]

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


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. 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? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

He did. The lines represent black pawns raining down a hail of arrows to kill the knights. (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)

Someone wins and someone loses every game. We don't know what really happened. Wikipedia tells us the ground was muddy without explaining why or why it was an hindrance to the white team. Why (for example) would the ground have been ploughed in October (the season of mellow fruitfulness)?

Presumably there is no limit to how many troops the locals can muster; just a limit to how many they could train and deploy correctly. But Henry was the challenger, fighting was on his side, a winter war with the logistics problem was not.

The story is the stuff of comics.

There was no such thing a French in those days. All loyalties were a political net that would change like the wind. Popular misconception is the the English would not have to so much to win. In fact they would have had to do nearly everything and at the double. (Example gratis:) Moving the stake barrages closer to the French arrows. How would they have done that? Who knows?

They were low Welsh and English hoi palloi of little account. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 17:58, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Personal tools


It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal or Bitcoin?