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The oldest name for chess is chaturanga, a Sanskrit word referring to the four branches of the Indian army, elephants, horses, chariots and footsoldiers, which were not in existence after the birth of Christ. Therefore, chess is at least 2000 years old. It's exact age can't be determined with any degree of accuracy, because it was originally played with dice and references to skilled dice players as long ago as 5000 years ago may or may not refer to

early forms of chess. This ambiguity is due at least in part to the Indian ashtapada, the forerunner of the modern chessboard. It has been used for various games, most of which involved dice. The Hindus didn't stop with two player chess. They developed a four handed version, with and without dice, in which each player had eight pieces. The diceless four handed version is still played in India. Indian rules varied greatly from place to place, and as it spread Eastward the rules were altered to suit local tastes. The Burmese start their game with the Kingside pawns on the third rank and the Queenside pawns on the fourth rank. Before any movement begins, the major pieces are located anywhere

behind the pawns according to the tactical discretion of the individual player. The moves today are identical to the original Hindu chess moves. The Chinese place their pieces on the intersections of the lines rather than on the squares and add a celestial river, akin to no man's land, between halves on the board. Their version only has five pawns to a side, but adds two cannons ahead of knights and a counselor on either side of the King. In China, the King is called the general because a Chinese emperor was so insulted at seeing a figure of himself in a lowly game that he had the players executed. In order to play the game without undue risk of life, Chinese players demoted the piece on the board. Interestingly, the Japanese allow captured pieces to change sides and rejoin the game against their old army at any vacent spot on the board.

The Persians never took to four handed chess and looked down on dice-chess. The latter did spread to Europe via the Moslems, where it persisted until the 14th century. The Moslems most likely learned dice-chess direct from the Hindus. The Persian empire fell to the Moslems in the 7th century, and chess very popular in the Moslem world. At least, it did after their theologians decided that chess playing wasn't contary to the teachings of Mohammed. This descion took about 100 years and illustrates the curious power of a simple game. After the official descion that there was no harm in chess, the Moslems created a greatly detailed literature about it. Chess may have arrived in Russia as early as the eighth century, about a hundred years before it reached Western Europe. 16th century travelers to Russia reported that people of all classes played chess there. In the rest of Europe, chess playing was the game of nobility until the 18th century. In

certain parts of Russia, the modern rules didn't take hold until the 20th century.

By the late Middle ages, Europeans and Moslems had started tinkering with the rules. In the 13th cnetury, the first known instance of the chessboard with it's light and dark tiles was created. 15th century Mohammedan documents note that the Great Mogul Timor played 'Great Chess', a version which required a board of 10 by 11 squares. Meanwhile, Europeans were frustrated witht he amount of time it took to complete a game, and typically made some rule changes designed to speed things up. In the original version, the Bishop could only move two squares diagonally, but had the ability to leap over pieces in it's way. The Queen, at the time,was easily the weakest piece on the board, moving only one diagonal square per turn. When a pawn reached the 8th rank, it was promoted to a

Queen, this was the only was to keep the pawn in the game. Over a period of time the Bishop and Queen grew in strength to what they are now days.

Given the offensive power of the Bishop and Queen, the King became to easy to capture. The answer to this problem was castling. The ability to suddenly move the King two squares increased the depth of stratagy to avoid checkmate. At about the same time, the pawns were given the option to move one or two squares as their inital move. So that this move could not be used to avoid capture the move en passant was devised. There have been no other alterations to the game since the 16th century.


Further History (edited – JP)


INDIA; Chess introduced into Persia from India during reign of Khusrau Nushirwan. (531-578).


Chaturanga, earliest chess precursor, created in the Punjab. 0570

CHINA; Form of chess being played in China with dice. 0570

Chatrang was an accepted noble accomplishment. 0590

Chaturanga reaches Persia. 0600

KARNAMAK; 1st reference to chess in literature, the Persian romantic KARNAMAK. 0600

VASAV; Chessmen mentioned in the Sanskrit fantasy romance, Vasavadatta by Subandhu. 0602

SANSKRIT; Chess mentioned in a Sanskrit romance. 0610

Earliest chess pieces identified. 0610

EGYPT; Chess introduced in Egypt. 0624

Chaturanga mentioned in the Sanskrit, Harshacharita, by Bana. 0626

Chatrang (old Persian word for chess) developed from chaturanga. 0632

Islamic conquest of Persia changes chatrang to shatranj. 0638

OMAR; The Caliph Omar sanctions chess among the Islamic people. 0638

Buddhists spread chatrang eastward. 0643

Omar b. al-Khattab, father-in-law of Muhammad, asked if chess was legal. 0644

CHATRANG-NAMAK; Short romance written in Persian, Chatrang-namak, describing chess. 0651

Arabic conquest of Persia completed; shatranj popular. 0655

TALIB; Caliph Ali Ben Abu Talib, son-in-law of Muhammad, disapproves of chess

CANONS; 50th rule of the canons forbids chess. 0680

JAPAN; Chess prohibited in Japan by the Emperor Jito. 0700

Walid I ibn Abdalmalik becomes caliph. 0710

Walid I kills chessplayer when the player purposely played bad against him. 0712

Seville conquered by Arabs. Moorish invaders bring chess to Iberia. 0714

LITERARY; 1st literary references to chess in Arabic. 0721

Sulaiman ibn Yashar died. Disapproved chess. 0728

Living chess introduced in Europe by Charles Martel (688-741). 0742

Abbasid caliphs come to power in Baghdad. Document chess. 0750

Harun ar-Rashid born. Abbasid caliph of Islam 786-809. 1st in his dynasty to playt chess

WOMEN; 1st mention of women chessplayers. 0775

Moorish invaders of Spain introduce chess to Western Europe. 0780

al-Mahdi write a letter to Mecca to give up chess, dice, and archery. 0785

CHESS PIECE; Earliest known chess piece dates to this period. 0795

CHINA; 1st reference to Chinese chess in the HUAN KWAI LU (Book of Marvels).


Chinese chess (Hsiang ch'i) introduced. 0800

Moors bring chess to Spain. Chess reaches Italy. 0800

Charlemagne (742-814) introduced to chess. 0802

RUSSIA; Chess introduced in Russia thru the Caspian-Volga trade route.0820

Decimal chess invented. Board is 10 x 10. 1st use of dice in chess. 0855

knight tour; 1st reference to knight's tour (turaga) in the Sanskrit Kavyalankara of Rudrata. 0880

AS-SULI; Abu as-Suli b. Author of 1st book on shatranj. 0880

GREEKS; Chess introduced to the Greeks; call it zatrikion. 0900

EUROPE; Chess introduced into Europe. 0900

INDIA; Chessplayers in india wages their fingers in chess matches. 0902

Chess pieces are given Persian names. 0922

al-Ma'sudi, writes on the history of chess in India and Byzantine chess. 0960

CHINA; Further references of Chinese chess in the sung period. 0970

Daqiqi begins the SHAHAMA, national epic of Persia 0980

EUROPE; Chess is widely known throughout Europe. 1000

OTTO II; The daughter of Otto II (955-983) was "won" from a chess match. 1000

Firdausi completes Shahnama or Book of Kings. Written in Persian. References to chess. 1013

ENGLAND; Chess brought to England with the Danish invasion. 1027

Canute, King of Denmark and England, learns to play chess from pilgrimmage to Rome. 1030

al-Beruni writes of an Indian form of 4-handed chess and dice. - INDIA 1035

PERSIA; Regulations of chess in persia are published. 1089

Jayyash leads revolt after disguising himself as indian chessplayer. 1090

Boards with alternating light and dark squares are introduced. 1092 1093

CHURCH; Chess is condemned by the eastern orthodox church. 1097

FRENCH; 1st French reference to chess. 1098

EUROPE; 1st Central European reference to chess. 1100

ROLAND; The French Carolingian epic, Song of Roland, mentions chess. 1100

Shogi played in Japan. 1105

KHAYYAM; Omar Khayyam writes the 'rubaiyat,' using a chess game.1106

Kyayyam wrote the RUBAIYAT with chess references 1125

RICHARD I; King Richard I (1157-99) learns chess while on the crusades. 1195

MAIMONIDES; The rabbi Maimonides includes chess among the forbidden games.


Russian word for chess (shakmatny) is introduced. 1264

Chinese introduce new pieces to Chinese chess (siang ki) 1283

Priests were forbidden from playing chess. 1300

CHATRANG-NAMAK written; oldest of Pahlawi works 1328

ibn Taimiya (a Hanabalite) says chess can be played, but not for money. 1329

FORBID; Synod of Wurzburg, Germany forbids chess. 1330

Timur born. Mongol ruler and chess enthusiast, 1337

Chaucer (1343-1400) writes about chess in his poem The Book of the Duchess. 1370

GREGORY; Pope Gregory xi (1329-1378) is an avid chessplayer. 1374

Timur names his son shah-rukh after playing chess 1375

Charles V (1337-80) of France prohibits chess. 1380

William of Wykeleham, founder of Oxford, forbids chess. 1390.10.10

Jews of Forli banned all games of chance except chess. 1420

German king abandons the prohibition of chess. 1422

CHESS; Beginning of modern chess starts in southern Europe. 1475

GAME; 1st known modern chess game recorded. 1490

PAINTING; 1st chess painting 'the chess players,' by a Venetian artist. 1490

FIRDEWSI; World's longest poem, by Firdewsi, recounts how chess was invented. 1500

JEWS; Chess becomes a recognized pastime for Jews on the Sabbath. 1500

JAVA; 1st Portuguese expedition off Malacca. The Javans recognized chess 1510

Vida writes his poem, Scacchia Ludus, the 1st mention of a goddess of chess. 1512

BOOK; 1st chess book to be published in Italy, by Damiano in Rome. 2nd extant chess book. 1512

Damiano says chess was invented by Xerxes (Axedrez is Sp for chess). 1512

Atahualpa, inca emperor of peru, imprisoned and learns chess. 1535

CLUB; 1st chess club, organized in Italy. 1550

Ivan IV of Russia bans chess. Civil code called Hundred Chapters. 1555

TOURNAMENT; 1st documented chess competion, played in Madrid. 1575

Catherine de Medici of France is a keen chess player. 1580

Ivan the Terrible dies while starting a game of chess. 1584

SHOGI; Japanese chess (shogi) played 1590

Russian book on regulations forbade chess in Russia. 1594

Nilakantha writes the BHAGAVANTABHASKARA, which has a chess section 1600

Ohashi-Sokei appointed chief shogi player in Japan. 1612

SHAKESPEARE; Chess on stage in Shakespeare's The Tempest (Miranda playing Ferdinand).1614

History of St Demys Abbey saying Charlegmane gave them a chess set. 1630

Ecclesiastical lawyers declare chess as legal. 1634

Louis XIII was a chess addict. 1636.06.29

CASTLING; Modern version of castling established in England. 1640

CHARLES; King Charles I of England is a keen chessplayer. 1640

AMERICA; 1st mention of chess in America, in a history of Dutch settlers. 1643

ALEXEI; The Tsar Alexei punished chessplayers by whipping and prison. 1650

STROBECK; Frederick William I of Prussia gives chess board to town of Strobeck. 1652

COFFEE HOUSE; 1st coffee house opened in London. Chess was played there. 1654

JEHAN; The Shah Jehan builds a chess palace. 1663.04.23

TSAR; Chess sets presented to the Tsar. 1665

Leibniz, the german philosopher, played chess. 1680

ACADEMY; A chess academy was conducted at Fountainbleau. 1683

Piacenza writes book describing flank openings as fianchetti. 1685

RUSSIA; Muscovite embassy to Louis XIV defeated French players in Paris. 1686

Tsar liberates man from confinement whose crime was playing chess and swearing. 1687

SIAM; 1st account of chess in Siam by La Loubere, envoy to Louis XIV 1689

OPENINGS; 1st time openings are classified in an orderly way. 1692

Slaughter's coffee house in London founded for chessplayers. 1694

Hyde publishes the 1st scholarly attempt of oriental chess origins, De Ludis Orientalibus. 1695

Payagunda writes CHATURANGAVINODA (The Game of Chess) 1700

Peter the Great cancels a ban on chess. 1700

Hyde, Thomas died in Oxford, England. Oriental scholar. Establised Indian origin of chess. 1705

Liebniz takes interest in chess. 1705

FRANKLIN; Benjamin Franklin born. Wrote 'Morals of chess'. 1707

PROHIBITED; chess is prohibited in Frankfort for 14 years after the Great Fire.1715

CLUB; 1st chess club in England at Slaughter's in London. 1715

Charles XII died. King of Sweden who played chess. 1718

Feret, in a paper to the French Academy, supports Indian origin of chess. 1719.11.09

Rousseau becomes interested in chess. Writes about it in his Confessions. 1733.09.15


Kenneth Whyld, Caistor, (Great Britain), 1996

A personal note first. For fifty years I was convinced by Murray and van der

Linde. I believed that the Indian sub-continent was almost certainly the birthplace

of chess. Now I am less certain. To be brief I can outline the factors that trouble


The Arguments for India

1.Etymology. The earliest chess terms appear to be Sanskrit. Murray shows that

Pahlavi words in the game are adapted from Sanskrit, and the Arabic in turn from


2. The Firdausi legend. It describes the arrival of chess from India, although written

long after the events which it claims to depict. That this provenance was not at the

time disputed by Persians (or Arabs) convinced Murray that it had a factual basis.

3. Fables. Much of the folk-lore about the birth of chess is from in the



1.Sanskrit is the most distinguished member of a family of languages, including

closely-linked contemporary relatives used outside India, such as Avestan.

2. Firdausi describes chess as arriving from Hind. According to Majid Yekta´i this

name was not used for India until after the 11th century. He says that here Hind

means Khuzistan. Others have extended Hind eastwords to include Baluchistan.

There are other puzzling elements in the Firdausi story. As Bidev pointed out,

nobody could possibly generate the rules of chess only by studying the array

position at the beginning of a game. On the other hand, such an achievement might

be made by looking at nard.

3. Any suggestion that, if there is any historical basis for the tale, the two games

have been transposed, might seem unlikely on the face of it. However, there are

points which need to be made to a Western European. Firdausi´s purpose was to

extol the vitues of Chosros I, and his text has as much historical reliability as

Shakespeare´s Henry V, also written long after the events it portrays. There would

be more merit in ´cracking´chess than nard. Finally, we here (especially

chessplayers) think that games of skill are more worthy than games of chance, but

at the time and place of this legend the opposite was true. Games of skill were mere

diversions, but games of chance engaged the gods in dialogue.

4. The Indian sub-continent is the source of the world´s greatest literary treasures.

The tradition of story-telling is a rich one, and the proliferation of the (conflicting)

Indian legends about creation of chess may merely reflect that narrative tradition.

There are similar, if fewer, stories from elsewhere.

We know that while chess flourished in Baghdad in the 9th century, the earliest

reliable account of chessplaying in India date only from the 11th century.