History of Chess


Chess originated in India, where its early form in the 6th century was "chaturanga", which translates as "four divisions of the military" - infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots, represented respectively by Pawn, Knight, Bishop, and Rook. In Persia around 600 the name became "shatranj" and the rules were developed further. Shatranj was taken up by the Muslim world after the Islamic conquest of Persia, with the pieces largely retaining their Persian names. In Spanish "shatranj" was rendered as ajedrez, in Portuguese as xadrez, and in Greek as zatrikion, but in the rest of Europe it was replaced by versions of the Persian "shah" (king).

The game reached Western Europe and Russia by at least three routes, the earliest being in the 9th century. By the year 1000 it had spread throughout Europe. Introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the 10th century, it was described in a famous 13th century manuscript covering shatranj, backgammon, and dice named the Libro de los juegos.


Vladímir Kramnik

Russian Chessplayer.

Another theory, championed by David H. Li, contends that chess arose from the game xiangqi, or at least a predecessor thereof, existing in China since the 2nd century BC.

Around 1200, rules of shatranj started to be modified in southern Europe, and around 1475, several major changes rendered the game essentially as it is known today. These modern rules for the basic moves had been adopted in Italy and in Spain. Pawns gained the option of advancing two squares on their first move, while Bishops and Queens acquired their modern abilities. This made the Queen the most powerful piece; consequently modern chess was referred to as "Queen's Chess" or "Mad Queen Chess". These new rules quickly spread throughout western Europe, with the exception of the rules about stalemate, which were finalized in the early nineteenth century.

This was also the time when chess started to develop a corpus of theory. The oldest preserved printed chess book, Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez (Repetition of Love and the Art of Playing Chess) by Spanish churchman Luis Ramirez de Lucena was published in Salamanca in 1497. Lucena and later masters like Portuguese Pedro Damiano, Italians Giovanni Leonardo Di Bona, Giulio Cesare Polerio and Gioachino Greco or Spanish bishop Ruy López de Segura developed elements of openings and started to analyze simple endgames.

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