History of Chess
Today, chess is a commonly played sport that almost everyone has heard of. Chess has a long and complex history which made it into the popular sport that it is now. It has a history almost as fascinating as the sport itself.
The history of chess is often traced back to 7CE. But, there is a legend that states it can be traced back a century earlier. Legend has it that chess originated when the youngest prince of the Gupta Empire was killed in battle. His older brother devised a way to show his mother what had happened by using pieces representing parts of the military on an 8 by 8 board. From this, it is said that the game chaturaṅga originated. The name meant the four sections of the military: infantry, cavalry, chariotry, and elephantry. These pieces would slowly evolve into the pawn, knight, rook, and bishop.
In 600 CE, chaturaṅga was introduced to Persia and became a popular sport. Here, chess became more developed. The modern terminology used in chess today originated in Persia. “Chess” was derived from the Persian word “shah” meaning king. “Checkmate” came from “shah mat” meaning the king has fallen. After the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century, chess spread throughout the Middle East.
In the Middle East, chess became more of a symbol of poetry and was used to describe political power. Al-Mas’udi, a historian, stated that chess was a testament to human free will, because it depended on strategy rather than luck, unlike many games of the time. From the Middle East, chess traveled to Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, many variants of the game were found.
By the year 1000, chess became popular in Europe. Chess had even become part of the courtly education in Europe. Chess was used to represent the different social classes in Europe. The king was the most powerful and the pawn was the weakest. Based on the class each one was assigned, the way the piece looked changed. The church was suspicious of the game and suggested not devote much time to chess. Briefly, chess was banned in France.
In the 16th century, chess evolved into the current version that we know today. But, chess theory used to be extremely primitive during this time period. Until the mid 18th century, chess theory didn’t develop much. In 1749, a chess master named François-André Philidor published a book known as Analyse du jeu des Échecs, meaning Analyzing Chess”. It brought new opening ideas and endgame techniques that are still used today. Romantic chess was the most popularly played style of chess during this time. It focused more on dramatic flair than strategy.
Chess continued to gain popularity. In the mid 19th century, chess sets became standardized. Before, all chess sets were different. But after the standardization, all chess sets and pieces would be uniform. This style of chess set is the one we still use today. Chess clocks were also introduced during this time period. In this era, strategy was more important than playing aggressively.
During the Cold War, Russia tried to make chess even more popular and get more players. For the rest of the century, they dominated chess. Many famous chess players were cultivated during this time such as Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik.
For decades, people had been working on developing computers that could play chess. An IBM computer known as “Deep Blue” was a chess-playing computer. It beat the world champion, Garry Kasparov. This was the first time a computer had ever beaten a world champion. Now, chess software can beat most players.
Chess has traveled from India to the world. What first started as a game with few rules has developed into a commonly played sport. But, who knows chess might evolve even more in the next thousand years.