Chess has been around for a very long time now. This article breaks down its origins and how it spread all over the world, becoming one of the most famous games in human history.
The earliest precursors of chess can be traced as far back as the Gupta Empire in India. Its earliest form was known as chaturaṅga. The name roughly translates as “four divisions of the military” referencing the infantry, cavalry, elephant, and chariot pieces used on the board. These would become the blueprint for the modern chess pieces as we know it, namely the pawn, knight, bishop, and rook.
Transplantation and Adaptation
Soon enough, the game was introduced to Persia from India. There it became a lively part of the Persian nobility’s princely or courtly education. This is probably due to the game’s effectiveness in instilling its players with the principles of strategy and tactics.
As time passed by, the game soon became known as shatranj. Along with the name change came the evolution of the game itself. This was when players started to say Shāh whenever they would attempt an attack on the opponent’s king. Additionally, they would say Shāh Māt, meaning “the king is helpless”,
if the opponent’s king has been trapped. Soon enough, these exclamations would carry over to the later versions of chess as it was introduced to other lands.
The game of chess was able to reach Western Europe and Russia by making use of at least three routes. The earliest of these importations is believed to have occurred in the 9th century. As far as we know, by
the year 1000, the game has been able to reach many parts of the European continent. It was also described in a book about different games from the East called Libro del Juego during the 13 th century.
The Silk Road
The spread of chess all over the world showed no signs of stopping. Traders traveling on the Silk Road, as well as Buddhist pilgrims, helped bring the game to China and other regions in the Far East. As it reached new places, variants of the game began taking shape as well. This is why many scholars believe
the role chess played in the development of checkers.
The history of chess, therefore, is a story of adaptation and change. As the game reaches a new society and culture, modifications to its rules were made. Yet, in spite of it all, its essence survived throughout the ages. It is now one of the most recognizable games around.