World Facts

Where Did Chess Originate?

The early origins of chess, one of the most popular two-player games in the world, is said to be in India.

Chess is described as a strategic skill game that is played by two players on a chequered board in which each playing piece is allowed to move according to set out rules. The goal of the game is to attack the opponent and put their king in a position in which they cannot escape (checkmate). Each player has 16 pieces that include one queen, one King, two bishops, two knights, two rooks, and eight pawns. The oldest artifacts of the chess game date back to about 760 and were found in Samarkand in Uzbekistan which was part of the ancient Persian Empire. The oldest chess manual titled Kitab ash-shatranj which means ‘book of chess’ dates back 840-850 and was written by a renowned chess player by the name al-Adliar-Rumi

Theories About The Origin Of Chess

Various theories try to point to the origin of the modern day chess. One of the theories suggests that the game evolved from a Chinese variation that began in the 2nd century BC. The most popular theory, however, suggests that the game originated from India in the 6th century in the form of an early Indian game called chaturanga. The game involved four divisions of the military namely the cavalry, infantry, chariots, and elephants. The chaturanga pieces later evolved to become the modern-day Knight, pawn, rook, and bishop. The Indian chaturanga later spread along the Silk Road to the west in the form of chatrang in Sassanid Persia and the east in the form of eastern strategic skill games such as xiangqi, shogi, and janggi. Chatrang later moved to the Muslim world in the form of shatranj after the Islamic conquest of Persia. Shatranj largely retained the Persian names of the games pieces. The Spanish rendered shatranj as ajedrez while the Portuguese called it xadrez. The rest of Europe used variations of the Persian shah which means king. The term shah later evolved to become English words such as chess and check. The terms checkmate and rook are also English renditions of the Persian terms shah mat which means that the king is finished and rukh which means chariot.

Evolution Of Modern Day Chess

Early forms of European chess had pieces with limited movement on the board. The transformation into modern chess began in the year 1200 in southern Europe; by 1475 many significant and fundamental changes to the game had been adopted such as pawns gaining the ability to advance two squares in their first move. In the 10th century the queen replaced the vizier chess piece, and by the 15th century, the piece had become the most powerful on the board. Castling which is also known as the king’s leap, a move meant to secure the king's safety was devised in the same era. The rules of the game were formalized in the 19th century to include rules concerning a stalemate.

Assimilation Of Technology Into The Game Of Chess

The 20th century saw huge leaps in computer technology that was subsequently assimilated into the game of chess. The introduction of this technology marked the first time programmed computers could play competitively against humans. IBM’S Deepblue computer became the first programmed machine to beat a reigning chess champion in 1997 after defeating Garry Kasparov. The rise of technology has, however, led some to raise concern about the potential use of related technology to cheat in chess tournaments.

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