Are you a chess Patzers or a lumpy, blundering Loser? Read on and learn what this means

Are you a chess Patzers or a lumpy, blundering Loser? Read on and learn what this means


Everyone in the chess world has heard the word patzer, maybe used derisively about another player, but what does it really mean? Guest writer Dr. Helen Weissenstein tells us.

Patzer is really a German word but well-known, sometimes painfully so, to our American chessplayers. If we want to define it roughly, we can say that it means the opposite of chessmaster. The reason why I am not satisfied with this simple definition is a conversation which I had with Checkmaster Horowitz.

He ran into me at the Manhattattan Chess Club and, knowing that I had grown up in Austria, a German-speaking country, wanted my opinion on the following highly important problem. The day before he had watched a game during which one of the players, having made a few juicy blunders, called himself a patzer.

Can a player still qualify as a patzer even though he acknowledges being one? Does not the expression imply a personality that will never admit blunders?

I answered offhand that to my knowledge, the word patzer had no such limitations and that also a person of great humility could claim the title provided he had the necessary qualifications. But, afterwards, my conscience bothered me because I had dismissed that most significant question so lightly, and I rushed to the library to do some research.


This is what I found:

  • There is an old German word batzen, now patzer derived from backen, to bake
  • As a noun batzen meant a clot, a lump, a sticky mess.
  • As an intransitive verb, to be sticky, gluey
  • As a transitive, to do smeary, bad, superficial work, to blunder

We can see at once that is where our friend the patzer comes in, making nice big blunders.

To the same family of words belongs also an adjective, patzig, archaic batzet or batzig, meaning bloated, boastful, impudent, conceited.

Shame-faced, I have to confess that I did not think of this adjective as I answered Mr. Horowitz’s question much too hastily. Now, having concluded my research, I would not dare to decide one way or the other because unfortunately I found so little literature about the word patzer. This is most regrettable of course since it is of such paramount significance in chess. In fact, if I were asked to name the most important expressions, I would suggest: check, kibitzer and patzer.

So, patzer may be boastful blunders, but they are members of our chess family, just the annoying ones, and we have to accept them!


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