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Chess is one of the oldest games in the world — stretching back more than a millennia — and a fascinating example of cultural evolution ♟️ Here are a few snippets from its rich history. (1/7)
(2) Chess likely comes to us from India. The original name — chaturaṅga (चतुरङ्ग) — meant “four (military) divisions”: infantry, cavalry, chariotry, & elephantry 🐘 Indeed, the bishop was originally a war elephant & is still called so in many places. In Mongolia, it is a camel.
(3) From India, chess moved into Iran. Ancient Persians (c. 700-800 AD) introduced the idea of warning the other player when their King was under threat. The term “checkmate” comes from the Farsi term “Shāh Māt” (شاه مات) meaning “The King is helpless”.
(4) These early variants traveled the Silk Road & evolved into related games: Makruk (หมากรุก) in Thailand where the rook is a boat, Xiangqi (象棋) in China which has chariots & cannons & a river, & Shogi (将棋) in Japan where captured pieces can be reintroduced by the captor.
(5) Chess also spread to Europe through the Arab empire. Some pieces were recast: elephants became bishops, chariots became rooks & the king’s advisor became a queen. Early games also used a dice to determine which pieces would move; the Church really didn't like that.
(6) The queen was originally a weak piece, only able to move one square at a time. But coinciding with the rule of Queen Isabella, a new variant — “Queen’s Chess” — arose, which gave her supremacy. Not everyone was happy about this; it was often called the "Mad Queen's Chess".
(7) Chess styles also changed with the times in Europe. You are likely familiar with the Staunton chess set, which was selected as the choice set of the World Chess Federation in 1924, but there were many other variants — I'm partial to the Selenus style. chessstrategyonline.com/chess-set-guide
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