Chess is known the world over, played by numerous fans, but its roots and origins are not clear and are highly debatable. There are a variety of legends, stories, and guesses starting from a dispute about the place and ending with the dispute of when chess started. However, most people can agree that there was not just one individual who invented the established game because it is far too complex with all its rules and concepts for a simple human mind.
Until Wilhelm Steinitz became the first official World Chess Champion in 1886, the game of chess was in a steady flux. It a game we could well have difficulty recognizing when we think about today’s chess: from a game dominated by intuitive decision-making to a fight between engines. So, in the following article, we will explore the different roots of the game of chess.
One ancient legend that many children even find in their maths books is about the tyrannical Indian king, Shihram, and a wise man in his kingdom. The wise man wanted to convince Shihram of the importance of each resident of his kingdom. So, he invented a game to represent the kingdom consisting of the king himself, his queen, rooks, bishops, knights, and pawns, all of which were important.
The king liked the game very much and understood that the game was just like real life. So, he ordered everybody in his kingdom to play chess! Shihram offered the man all the gold and silver that he wanted, but the wise man didn’t want any treasure. Together with the king, he went to a chess board and asked him to put one grain of wheat on the first square, two on the second and to keep doubling it until the chessboard was full.
First of all, the king felt highly offended, but then he ordered his servants to fulfill the man's wish. Desperately, the servants conveyed that such an enormous amount of wheat did not exist! The king understood that the wise man had given him a second lesson. Just like the pawns in chess, you should never underestimate the small things in life!
This is one of the most popular legends about the history of chess. But for sure, there are many more.
One day, a man called H. J. R. Murray was keen on getting closer to the roots of the game of chess. He decided to share his discoveries with the world by writing a book, "A History of Chess", in 1913. In his book, Murray assumes that the history of chess started in the North of India, traveled to Persia from there, and then spread throughout the Asian continent. In the Eastern World, for example in India or Persia, chess became a part of the courtly education of the nobility. In those days words like "Shah!" – Persian for a king – or "Shah Mat!" – the king is helpless – were used in the games, is very similar to the terms we use today with "check" and "checkmate". The rules were already quite similar to those we know nowadays.
Murray describes the original mold of chess, called Shatranj. Then he presents the role of medieval chess in Europe during the Middle Ages, how it traveled from the Middle East to Russia and then to Western Europe. Finally, in the third part of his book, the author arrives at the beginning of modern chess in the 19th century as we know it today.
Currently being one of the most popular board game in the world, it has created a huge fan base. People irrespective of their age play chess and are excelling in it.