Chess, and Brome Grass, common names of several species of the genus hromus, belonging to the natural order gramineae, or grasses, and tribe festuceae (fescue grass, &c). In the wheat-raising districts of the United States the name chess is given particularly to B. secalinus, which is also called cheat, and, from its introducer into this country as a grass of supposed value, Willard's bromus. Among the characteristics of the genus are: spikelets with 5 to many flowers, panicled; glumes not quite equal, shorter than the flowers, mostly keeled, the lower with 1 to 5, the upper with 3 to 9 nerves; the flowers lanceolate, compressed; the paleao herbaceous, the lower keeled, 5-9-nerved, awned or bristle-pointed from below the tip; the upper palea finally adherent to the grain; stamens 3, styles attached below the apex of the ovary. The grasses of this genus are coarse, with large spikelets, generally somewhat drooping when ripe. The species most known in Great Britain are the B. erectus, straight, 2 to 3 ft. high; B. asper, 4 to 5 ft.; B. sterilis, 1 to 2 ft.; and B. diandrus, rarely met. - Of the B. secalinus, or chess proper, specific characters arc: a spreading panicle, slightly drooping; spikelets ovate, smooth, of a yellowish green tinge, holding 6 to 10 rather distinct flowers.
The stems are erect, smooth, round, 2 to 3 ft. in height, bearing 4 or 5 leaves with striated sheaths; joints 5, slightly hairy; leaves flat, soft, linear, their points and margins rough to the touch. This plant is annual, flowering in June and July; but in some cases in which it is cut sooner, or otherwise fails to produce seed, it survives, and matures the second year. Chess is a source of annoyance particularly in grain fields, most of all in those of wheat, since it is difficult to separate its seed, having nearly the size but without the plumpness of barley, from the cultivated grains. The notion of many farmers that wheat which has been injured by frost in the autumn or otherwise arrested in its growth is liable to turn to chess, and that of others that the chess grains themselves never grow, are of course wholly without foundation. Some years since the cultivation of chess as a valuable grass for cattle, like millet, lucerne, etc, was recommended by many persons in this country, probably in ignorance of its really worthless quality, and high prices were charged for the seed; whence doubtless arose its present wide diffusion.
It has been supposed that by many who thus disseminated the plant it was mistaken for the B. arvensis, the only species of brome grass at all suitable for cultivation, but which is itself now wholly displaced by more desirable sorts of grasses. In experiments that have been tried with the chess, cattle have been found to prefer to it almost every sort of fodder, save oat straw and corn stalks. It is the farmer's true interest, indeed, to keep his fields as clear as possible of all the species of brome grass. - Among the other species known in the United States are the upright chess (B. racemo-sus), the soft chess (B. mollis), declared by some authorities to be poisonous, the wild chess (B. Kalmii), the fringed brome grass (B. ciliatus), the meadow brome grass (B. pratensis), and the field brome grass (B. arvensis). From this last the B. secalinus is distinguished by the spikelets of the former having fewer florets, and its outer palea being rounded at the summit.
Chess (Bromus asper).
Soft Chess (Bromus mollis).