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History of Chess

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Written by Yigit Berkehan Kose


Throughout history, people have played games to have fun or to develop various strategies. One of these games has been chess. Chess is one of the most favorite strategy games, as it was in the past. In this article, we will talk about the general history of chess.


Chess is a board game played between two players and with all the tournaments being organized around the world, it is considered a sport. This game is played with 32 chess pieces on an 8×8 square area called a chessboard. Half of the 64 squares are black and half are white. The sides take the white and black colored pieces, and the game develops as each player makes one move at a time. At the beginning of the game, white and black have 16 pieces. They consist of a king, a queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent's king.


The word chess comes from the Old French word 'eschews' meaning 'checkmate', which is the key move of the game. Although the findings indicate that chess has been played in the 2000s in the reliefs on the pyramids in Egypt, it is accepted that chess appeared in India in the 6th century AD. By the 10th century AD, it had spread to all of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Since it became a very popular game among the nobility in Europe, from the 15th century at the latest, it began to be called the "royal game". The rules and formations changed over time and were standardized in the 19th century. It spread among the intellectual upper strata of society in 20th-century Europe and became one of the most popular games in the world.


Chess has been known in Iran since the 6th century. From here, it spread to the Middle East and North Africa with the spread of Islam in the 7th century. Through the Andalusian Umayyads, Italy, the Byzantine Empire, and Russia, the game reached other parts of Europe between the 9th and 11th centuries. Here, on the one hand, it was considered one of the seven valiant virtues of the knights, and on the other hand, it was not approved by the church. In the 15th century, the rules of the game changed drastically. After this century, one can talk about modern chess as it is pretty similar to the one being played today. Spain (16th century), Italy (16th/17th century), France (18th/19th century), England (19th century), and Russia (20th century) became Europe's leading countries in chess in turn.


The World Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded in 1924. Furthermore, regular chess tournaments have been held since the mid-19th century. The first official World champion is Wilhelm Steinitz. With the invention of computers, at the end of the 20th century, chess programs were released. Some of these programs can now be played at the level of world champions.


A legend associated with the invention of chess is about the cruel Indian king Shihram and a wise man in his kingdom. The wise man wanted to convince Shihram of the importance of each inhabitant of his kingdom. Thus, the king himself invented a game of his queen, rooks, bishops, knights, and pawns representing the kingdom, all of which mattered. The king liked the game very much and understood that the game was just like real life. So he ordered everyone in his kingdom to play chess! Shihram offered the man all the gold and silver he wanted, but the wise man did not want the treasure. He went with the king to a chessboard and asked him to put one grain of wheat on the first square and two on the second square, and fold it in half until the chessboard was full.


First of all, the king was very offended, but then he ordered his servants to fulfill the man's wish. Desperately, the servants said that there was not such an abundance of wheat, and almost as much wheat was not found in the country.


The king realized that the wise man had given him a second lesson. Just like pawns in chess, you should never underestimate the little things in life!


As a result, chess has a much longer history than most games and is still being studied. Perhaps in the future, there will be evidence that chess was played in earlier times.


References:
  1. “History of Chess – Wikipedia”. en.Wikipedia.org, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_chess.

  2. “History of Chess”. Chess.com, 2022, https://www.chess.com/article/view/history-of-chess.

  3. “The History of Chess – How Did It All Begin?”. ichess.net, 2018, https://www.ichess.net/blog/history-of-chess/.

  4. “Chess”. Britannica, 2022, https://www.britannica.com/topic/chess.

  5. “Chess 101: Who Invented Chess? Learn About the History of Chess and 3 Memorable Chess Games”. Master Class, 2022, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/chess-101-who-invented-chess-learn-about-the-history-of-chess-and-3-memorable-chess-games.


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