Everything has its own history and a beginning. We have to know our history if we are to know where we are headed. It is very hard to know our own future if we have no clue where we came from. Some people don’t care, but many if not all of us are influenced by the things that happened in the past.

Chess has its own history and many myths surrounding it. We have heard of stories of a game created for an emperor. But, is that the true history of chess? Let us take a closer look. 

The Very Origins of Chess

Chess actually originated from an early Indian game called the chaturanga, which was first seen around the 7th century CE. It is a military board game that has pieces known as infantry, elephantry, cavalry and chariotry. These pieces would over time evolve into the pieces of today, namely the pawn, the bishop, the knight and the rook. Victory in chaturanga was dependent on a single piece, much like today’s king. The pieces had different power, like in today’s chess.

Chess moved to Persia through India and became a part of the court education system. The name was turned into chatrang. After Persia was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate, the game was renamed to shatranj, due to the lack of the ng and ch sounds in the Arabic language.

At the time, players started calling the game Shah, which is king in Persian. The term Shat Mat or checkmate also evolved at the time, meaning the king is helpless. 

Chess in the West

Chess was brought to the West when the Islamic and Arabic empires expanded towards Europe, it was introduced as Shatranj. However, Russia also had chess for a long time, though their country size and trading routes enabled them to interact with others more frequently and be introduced to chess much sooner.

Around the start of the first millennium, most of Europe already had chess or some variant of chess introduced to them. By the 13th century, chess became really popular in most of Europe and it was even banned in France by King Louis IX, though the people ignored the ban, the commoners and lords alike.

Modern Chess

The game of chess as we know it today originated in Spain, Italy, Portugal or France, though the history of that is not clear. This was the first time, around the year 1500, that the pieces started resembling the ones we know today, or rather, their power. Namely, the bishop and queen became stronger.

Competitive chess arose in the year 1834 and it got better over the years, with new rules implemented, like timekeeping and the sealed move.

Chess has an interesting history and this was its brief overview.