As one of the tests that the trio needed to pass to get to the room where Philosopher's Stone was kept, they needed to get across the room full of giant wizard chess.

To do that, they needed to play the game, which the book describes as seriously dangerous for them - the chess figures literally crush and destroy one another, and wreck things around.

What makes me confused is, how did Quirrell get past this test?

  • It seems unlikely that HE played wizard chess - first, given what's shown about the game, any prior recent game would have left mounds of debris and broken figures all over the place; and second, there were 3 missing figures and only one Quirrell.

  • If he used some other method to avoid playing the game, what was it, and why couldn't the trio use the same method instead of risking Ron's life?

  • 22
    I always assumed that wizard chess pieces fixed themselves otherwise it would become a very expensive hobby. Jan 24, 2012 at 13:14
  • 9
    Um... It's magic... The board likely resets itself to the proper configuration when you enter the room...
    – TGnat
    Jan 24, 2012 at 13:15
  • 2
    Is there any canon reference? Like from small chess sets Ron plays? Jan 24, 2012 at 13:32
  • 11
    I recall that sets of pieces were passed down and Ron's chess pieces knew and trusted his decisions which implies that they've played many games together. Ron is clearly willing to make sacrifices to win the game so my guess is that he lost at least a few pieces in his lifetime so they must have a way of mending themselves. Or possibly there is a spell to mend them afterward easily. My wife has my copy of the first book at the moment but didn't the trio have to call some pieces off the board? So there weren't three missing pieces initially.
    – Dason
    Jan 24, 2012 at 16:05
  • how Quirrell did it? magical version of stockfish/deep blue of course. (the literal stockfish/deep blue i guess wouldn't work as explained re the rita skeeter thing) unless mcgonagall had an anti-cheat spell (maybe it was valve anti-cheat)
    – BCLC
    May 10, 2021 at 15:12

3 Answers 3


In the book, there aren't three missing figures; three pieces leave after Ron says they'll replace them. Also, the pieces aren't destroyed, but "smashed ... to the floor and dragged ... off the board", from which they can presumably return for the next game.

  • 3
    Um... is it me or "smashed" has a clear connotation of destruction? Good point re: book difference - +1 Jan 24, 2012 at 19:05
  • 15
    Ron is "struck hard" and "crashed to the floor", but he's not broken (Hermione can bring him round and then they go "dashing up" to the owlrey), and the pieces remain "a huddle of limp black players slumped along the wall", so it reads to me as knocked down hard, not destroyed at all. (Think "smash" like in tennis, not like in glass!) Jan 24, 2012 at 19:16
  • 2
    @DVK, perhaps you're remembering the movie, where the pieces were shattered when captured. (Not that that would preclude magical repair when the game was over anyhow.)
    – Kyralessa
    Jan 25, 2012 at 3:40
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    And presumably Quirrel was good enough to win the game, or Voldemort was. Or they may not have insisted on replacing themselves with any pieces, or drawn them into a stalemate where they could get to the other side of the board and leg it...there's really a lot of ways around just winning the game.
    – Zibbobz
    Apr 16, 2014 at 13:37
  • So what about Quirrel/Voldemort and chess? Is it merely assumed away that at least one is a better chess player than McGonagall or whatever the wizarding world equivalent of Rybka is?
    – BCLC
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:10

Given the nature of the magical universe, and the fact that chess pieces are passed down, and that those same pieces remember moves, they must repair themselves by magical means after each game. Though in the books this isn't specifically stated, it is highly implied, so when Quirrell finished his chess game and moved on, the pieces reset(and repaired) themselves.


Okay lets make a few assumptions based on facts.

  1. Quirrell was a professor. Hence it is safe to assume that he was an average wizard (honestly only Trelawney (sp?) comes to mind as an incompetent wizard in Hogwarts. (Hagrid not included) Therefore he would have attended a Transfiguration class and probably could have fixed the broken pieces back together after finishing the game (assuming they dont fix themselves, and assuming he would fix them to show/delay the next person into believing that no one was there yet)

  2. If Quirrell had used a work around, it might've been because he had "known" about one (he was a Defence of the Dark Arts professor). Harry and co took the easiest and "obvious" solution. for eg. When Moody(fake) tells Harry to "use his strengths" in GoF, Harry's first conclusion is use a broom, whereas had he "known" about the conjunctivitis curse being a dragons weakness he would have used that.

  3. It has been a while since I read the book but I'm fairly sure that the tests wouldn't have intended to kill anyone. Because if the intention was to kill an intruder, much more potent safety measures could have been put into place. They probably wanted to injure, disarm, disable the intruder. Because as far as i know, there is no "death penalty" in HP. criminals of whatever kind are sent to Azkaban. The dementors kiss leaves the brain and heart intact and well in then depends on one's perception of death.

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    Translation #2: Harry is a dumb jock :) Jan 24, 2012 at 21:38
  • Why? Why on Earth would Quirrell actually restore the pieces? Unless he truly believed Harry &c would go down to meet them? And I didn't think Harry actually had a first instinct on what to do for the dragon? He didn't know he was allowed a wand, after all, and his broom wouldn't be with him. And as for #3 the Potions chamber actually had poison so yes it could have killed someone. And as for Dementors? I would say that that the 'kiss' is death; and when Crouch Jr. is kissed iirc he dies fairly soon after though maybe not. But it's worse than death anyway.
    – Pryftan
    May 26, 2018 at 23:48

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