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What is the context of useage and the meaning of the phrase «ход конём»? Where does it come from?

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The phrase is used to signify something that is unexpected but valid for a situation, something that displays cunning and originality. Potentially something which can surprise adversaries or competitors.

When used as a verb it more often is written as «сделать ход конём» («to make a move with a horse») rather than «пойти конём» («to move the horse»).

Examples:

  • Сделав ход конём Билл Гейтс, тесно работая со Стивом Джобсом, написал собственную графическую операционную систему и начал распространять её.
  • Вместо коммерческого сайта я создал бесплатный сервис, это был ход конём, так как теперь его невозможно обанкротить.

The best translation to English language is «knight's gambit».

This phrase relates to the fact that in chess moves (especially opening moves) with a knight are very unexpected due to the fact that it is the only move with one piece potentially jumping over any other pieces¹.

This phraseologism has nothing in common with the proverb «Сено к лошади не ходит» («Hay doesn't go to a horse»), which relates to the animal and not the chess piece, and refers to the need to act with the situation rather than demanding that the world suits oneʼs desires.

In military this phrase is sometimes used to mean a maneuver that leads to oneʼs forces performing the sergical strike behind the enemy line or in some way going around the fighting zone to reach their intended destination. One such operation of World War II has become known as операция «Ход Конём» (operation «Knightʼs Gambit» (English); Operation Rösselsprung (German)), it was a failed operation of Waffen-SS to assassinate Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia; the goal was to destabilise the government.

¹ With castling the king also jumps over another piece, the rook, but it can only be done once, and neither king nor rook are able to jump over any piece of the opponent.

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    While your answer is very good and explanatory, "ход конем" isn't really "knight's gambit", but "knight's move", referring indeed to a tricky move since knight can jump through figures and it can come unexpectedly during the game. But the explanation is not really related to the opening moves, cause knights are quite commonly used in many gambits (hence, nothing unexpected at this stage of a game), so semantically your explanation is not precisely correct. Sorry for being pedantic :) May 31 '19 at 14:59
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Where does it come from?

It is from chess.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knight_(chess)

In English it is called Knight in Russian it is called Horse (Конь).

[ход конем] = [Move with Knight] in chess meaning of the word.

For Russian brain, move style of every chess piece is straitforward, but Knight's move is "strange" in form of Russian letter Г (which sounds like G in English).

What is the context of useage and the meaning of the phrase «ход конём»?

In Russian language we always use this phrase to say about someone actions which require unusual planning and therefore unusual behaviour.

How do you deside what movie is cool and what is boring?

  • If the main character in movie found himself in do-or-die situation and here comes just a God and saves him - that is boring.

  • If the main character in movie found himself in do-or-die situation but he was so smart and make such actions which surprices his enemy and the audience, it means, that the main character made some [ход конем].

Let's make some examples.

I think they will make [ход конем].
I think they have some cuniing plan.

Let's make [ход конем].
Let's surprise them.

Oh, my God, what a [ход конем]!
Oh, my God, what a trick!

And my favorite example:

Luke, I am your father!
Noooooooooo!

That is 100% [ход конем] of Darth Vader.
That is 100% [ход конем] of script writer, director and producers of Star Wars.

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