A Simple History of Chess

The history of chess has been around a long time. Chess started out in its beginnings in a simple way. Over the years it has evolved into a very complex sport in which many competitors productively pass time. India is said to be the beginning of chess. The ancient game, caturanga, was played in North West India about the 6th century. It had 4 pieces representing the 4 different types of military units. The units were the infantry, elephants, cavalry and chariotry.

The Infantry represented and moved as a Pawn piece, except they could not move the initial 2 squares. Elephants represented and moved as a Bishop piece, but had 3 distinctive moves. The Cavalry mimic the Knight piece, becoming the distinctive feature linking the ancient game of caturanga to modern chess. Chariotry were the Rook piece and moved as a Rook. The game also had a Raja and a Mantri. The Raja represented and moved as a King piece, the Mantri (Counselor or General) represented the Queen piece and moved one square diagonally.

Around 1000 AD Chess was introduced into Europe. At that time the Queen, which had the name of Vizier, only had the Kings move. The queen would only be able to move adjacent to the space it was on. Soon the Queen would become the most powerful piece and Chess would be known as “Queen’s Chess”.

The modern chess game began in 1500. There was one major change; the Queen began her present ability to maneuver all over the board as she does now. Theories and rules began appearing and the chess game started moving toward its present day operation. Nobility started playing chess as a sport. Because of the changes playing Chess started became popular.

Around 1800 it became evident that a new form of chess sets was needed. The chess pieces were so similar in look it was difficult to tell the pieces apart. Charles Cook and John Jacques of London manufactured the first Staunton Chess Set. It is said that Cook invented the new images and named the collection after the best chess player at that time, Richard Staunton. The Knight gained the recognizable horses head; the Rook was 中国象棋 given the look of a Castle. The Bishop miter became the established shape of the Bishop. The King and Queen received the Crown and Coronet at that time. Although it is not known where the modern Pawn piece shape came from, it could have emerged from John Jacques quest for a convenient and simple design, although the free masons pedestal and compass was said to be the inspiration. The free masons at that time represented the working class.

In conclusion, chess games evolving from a simple game in India now has rules that have been solidified and standardized. Many variations of chess have been thought up and produced but the rules and standards of chess have not been changed much from the Staunton Chess time era. Chess clubs were born in Coffee Houses in 1800 and competition gradually accelerated into a very prestigious competitive trend. Benjamin Franklin said it best about chess in his article “The Morals of Chess”: “The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it.” Benjamin Franklin, 1750


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