A History of Chess Updated Blog

A History of Chess Updated Blog

Sep 2, 2012, 3:18 AM |

UPDATE: This review by NM Steve Goldbergjust came out on 04.17.13: ttp://www.chesscafe.com/Reviews/review883.htm

Here are just a few brief quotes from it, but the entire review is well worth reading IMHO. My few interjections are in boldface.

Try to imagine what a (very lengthy) Ph.D. dissertation regarding the early history of chess might be like. That is this book.

A review more likely to reflect the opinion of some readers, also reported by (Edward) Winter (a noted chess historian), came from William Hartston in 1985: "The classic book on the subject; 900 pages of meticulous research, practically unreadable." Perhaps understandably, the publisher ends the Hartston quote after the word "research" on the back cover.

 "Practically unreadable," in Hartston's words, may be a bit harsh. But few readers will share Clarke's enthusiasm to the degree that he felt unable to put it down. (see Clarke's quote below along with 2 others)

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog:

A book which has long since been Out-of-Print (OP) will soon be available again. This has long been considered the authoritative work on "A History of Chess" and I'm looking forward to purchasing a copy!

"A History of Chess is a chess history book by Harold James Ruthven Murray published in 1913.

Murray's aim is threefold: to present as complete a record as is possible of the varieties of chess that exist or have existed in different parts of the world; to investigate the ultimate origin of these games and the circumstances of the invention of chess; and to trace the development of the modern European game from the first appearance of its ancestor, the Indian chaturanga, in the beginning of the 7th century.

The first part of the book describes the history of the Asiatic varieties of chess, the Arabic and Persian literature on chess, and the theory and practice of the game of Shatranj. The second part is concerned with chess in Europe in the Middle Ages, its role in literature and in the moralities, and with medieval chess problems, leading up to the beginning of modern chess and the history of the modern game through to the 19th century.

Murray's comprehensive discussion of the wide ranging sources and of chess problems makes it unlikely that this book will ever be equaled. It is referred to as the authoritative source by every modern writer on chess history. It is the first published source of the theory that chess originated in India; a theory that remains the most widely accepted today.

By collating sources and eliminating duplicates therein he lists 553 complete Islamic shatranj chess problems and their stated solutions, plus 16 mikhāriq ("puzzles", singular mikhrāq) (which he numbers RW29 and 554 to 568). During this he was caused extra work by finding that one of his Arabic-language source documents was descended from a predecessor whose pages had been shuffled somewhat and some pages lost, and then had been routine-mindedly copied as it was by another scribe in old times.

The book also contains a list of medieval European chess problems.

As some chess variants do not use an 8x8 board, he uses the algebraic notation to represent chess moves, but:

  • He represents a capture by piece x piece, not piece x square.
  • He writes P at the start of a pawn move.

He quotes lengths of text from older European sources untranslated in their original languages (medieval forms of French and German and Spanish etc.)."                                                                        SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_History_of_Chess

PS: I just received my copy (10/24/12) from amazon for about $12.00 + qualifies for free shipping if your total order is +$25.00.

PB - $17.95 (listed price) - 900 pp - EN - 8 7/8" x 6" x 1 7/8"  www.skyhorsepublishing.com - NY, NY

The greatest book ever written on the game  D J MORGAN, British Chess Magazine

So fascinating it is difficult to put down Ernest J Clarke, American Chess Bulletin

The classic book on the subject: 900 pp of meticulous research Wm Hartston, author of The Kings of Chess

You can purchase it from