"...for chess, that superb, cold, infinitely satisfying
anodyne to life,
I feel the ardor of a lover, the humility of a disciple." -Herbert Russel
Chess is one of my favorite games. My mother taught it to me
when I was in grade school. I'm better than most people ("most people" being
ones who know the game but haven't played in years), but not good enough to beat
very experienced players.
"Life is a kind of chess, with struggle, competition, good
and ill events." -Benjamin Franklin
Chess may have originated in the Orient and India
between the years of 531 and 578. It was during this time frame that the first
mention of chess was found in ancient documents. These papers said that this
game was brought to the Persian King Nushirwan from the Rajah of India, Kanuj.
There are several other stories about how this game came into
existence. Some think that chess was invented by a brilliant man to help comfort
a grief stricken Indian princess when her son Gau was killed. She supposedly
played it to keep her mind off her pain. Others say an Indian man, Sissa ibn
Dahir made chess for King Shihrham. The king, as the legend goes, enjoyed the
game so much that he placed it in the temples.
The oldest document found to mention chess, called the
Karnamak, has been said to be written between 590 and 628, and it explains the
chess board. The document, which was written by a man named Firdusi, explained
that the board had sixty-four squares. Several different game pieces were used,
such as the rook, horse, elephant, counsellor, and king.
Historians have disagreed and debated about which form of
chess was introduced first - some argue that the "four hand" dice chess
originated first, while the "two-dice" method developed from it. Others claim
the two-dice method was first. However, the belief that the four hand dice chess
came first is the most supported theory, for there is no historical evidence of
the two-dice chess before the year 1400.
In any case, the two-dice method was derived from India. Each
of the two players received two rooks, two horses, two elephants, two camels,
one counsellor, and one king. There were also several foot soldiers. The
players, seated opposite each other, determined their moves by rolling dice.
The four hand dice chess was a different method of basically
the same game. In this game, there were four players, and each player received
either red, green, yellow, or black pieces to differentiate one persons pieces
from anothers. Each player received a chariot, horse, elephant, king, and four
foot soldiers. The four, in turn, rolled dice to determine their move.
- The Complete Chessplayer Reinfeld, Fred Fawcett Publications, Inc.,
- The Story of Chesspieces from Antiquity to Modern Times Wichmann, Hans
and Siegfried Crown Publishers, Inc. New York 1964
"Chess is a good mistress but a bad master." - Gerald
These are my favorite excerpts from this
Banned Chess - Iran is the only country that bans
chess. Ayatollah Khomeini banned the game because "it hurts memory and may cause
Bigamy and Chess - Early rules in some countries did
not allow a promotion of a pawn to a second queen on the board because that was
thought of as promoting bigamy and not allowed.
Cheating Chess King - King Canute was an 11 century
king of Denmark and England. During a game with a Danish earl, the King made a
bad move and tried to take it back. The earl overturned the chess table. The
King had him killed.
Death and Chess - Ivan the Terrible died while playing
chess. When Napoleon died, he willed that his heart be cut out and placed inside
a chess table.
Finger or Chess? Chess players in India during the
900s wagered their fingers in chess games. The loser cut off his finger with a
dagger and plunged his hand into a boiling ointment to cauterize it.
Forbidden Chess - Chess was condemned and forbidden by
the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1093. Rabbi Maimonides included chess among
forbidden games. Bishop of Paris Odo Sully banned chess from the clergy in 1195.
King Louis IX forbid chess as a useless and boring game in 1254. King Charles V
prohibited chess in France in 1375. Ivan IV of Russia banned chess and labeled
it a pastime of Hellenic deviltry in 1551.
Humphrey Bogart and Chess - Humphrey Bogart used to
play 5 minute chess games for 50 cents a game in NY Times Square. The FBI
stopped him from playing chess through the mail in 1943, thinking the chess
notation was a secret code. Chess appears in several of his movies.
Inquisition and Chess - In 1495 Pedro Arbues,
Dominican member of the Inquisition, ordered victims of persecutions to stand in
as figures in a game of living chess. The game was played by two blind monks.
Each time the captured piece was taken, the person representing that piece was
put to death.
Piece Renaming - During the American Revolution, there
an effort to rename the pieces to Governor, General, Colonel, Major, Captain,
Star Trek and Chess - Kirk and Spock played chess
three times on Star Trek. Kirk won every game.
Teeth and Chess - A player at a Hastings tournament
was clenching his teeth with concentration that he broke his false teeth. He had
to forfeit his game to go to a dentist.
War or Chess? A boy gave British Army General Rahl a
spy report that George Washington was crossing the Delaware to attack. The
general was so immersed in a chess game that he put the note in his pocket
unopened. It was found when he died in battle.