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Chess

"...for chess, that superb, cold, infinitely satisfying anodyne to life,
I feel the ardor of a lover, the humility of a disciple." -Herbert Russel Wakefield

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.


Chess History

"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.

Bibliography

  • The Complete Chessplayer Reinfeld, Fred Fawcett Publications, Inc., Connecticut 1953
  • The Story of Chesspieces from Antiquity to Modern Times Wichmann, Hans and Siegfried Crown Publishers, Inc. New York 1964

Chess Trivia

"Chess is a good mistress but a bad master." - Gerald Abrahams (1907-1980)

These are my favorite excerpts from this chess trivia website.

Banned Chess - Iran is the only country that bans chess. Ayatollah Khomeini banned the game because "it hurts memory and may cause brain damage."

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, and Pioneer.

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.


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Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and beyond! By Molly Kalafut