Pawn to Queen's Knight 4

A (very) Brief History of Chess

Quintessentially chess! I mean, who doesn't like a good game of chess? Well, probably all those people that don't know the rules and can't play, but apart from them everyone else. The ultimate game of strategy and patience requiring the ability to think and plan many moves ahead if you want to beat your opponent and not succumb to a checkmate after having spent many minutes or hours scheming your way across the board. In that respect it can be the most infuriating experience not least if your opponent is better than you; this is one game where each player's skill level can make for a very unbalanced playing field.

The game of chess we know these days is played on a board of 64 squares in alternating light and dark colours, along with 32 playing pieces: 16 for the light side and 16 for the dark. Its origins lie way back when, thought to come from Eastern India around the centuries 280–550 and based on a game know as chaturaṅga. A literal translation of that name meaning 'four divisions' in this case respresenting the infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots of the game. This early incarnation spread across the World and there is evidence from the year 600 indicating that chess was being played in Persia where it went under the name chatrang. Records are of course hazy and the exact origins and nature of this version of the game are hard to come by and those that we do know have are debated. But still, there were elements that both mirrored the earlier Indian version and the modern day equivalent: a board of 8 by 8 squares, each player has 16 pieces, there was a King and Horse and also, elephants, soliders and chariots. It's worth nothing that the board was not at this stage two tone, all the square were the same colour.

Once introduced to Persia the game was known as shatranj deriving from the original name from the Indian subcontinent. Generally believed to have been a gift to king Khosrau (531-579) from an Indian king, the game comprised 16 pieces of emerald and sixteen of ruby. In the subsequent conquest of Persia by the Muslims, which in turn led to the end of the Sasanian Empire, the game slowly began to spread into the West and with more and more people being exposed to the strategy and complexity, there grew an abundance of literature written about the game and how best to play it. With the spread of Islam into North Africa and Southern Spain, the game of chess moved northwards and into Europe.

The modern version of the chess developed once it had been introduced to Europe via Spain in the 10th century and its reach would eventually go as far as Mongolia and thence into Russia. Chess is described in the 13th century text the 'Libro de los juegos' ('Book of games') or 'Libro de axedrez, dados e tablas' ('Book of chess, dice and tables'). This text is one of the most important documents in describing and chronicling the history of board games. It contains an extensive collection of essays about chess, including variantions of the game as well as a large number of chess problems.

By the turn of the 16th century the game of chess had adopted the modern rules from Italy covering the basic moves and variations for particular pieces like the pawn, bishop and making the queen the most powerful piece. Since the end of the 19th century then the game and rules have pretty much remained unchanged.

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