Pieces and Pawns
Chess.com member, ADK, has created a set of descriptive vignettes about the
pieces that comprise the army on the chess board. You may want to visit his blog
and read his descriptions, comment or add your own!
His work made me decide to approach the subject from a more historical perspective.
De Ludo Scachorum
Jacobus de Cessolis
Jacobus de Cessolis
"How the Pieces Move"
Both picture above are from from an Italian manuscript entitled "about the game of chess"
Chess has been used symbolically in almost every media and in every way imaginable. In music, art, books, poems, chess has depicted the art of war and the art of love, political conflicts and business conflicts, life in general and life in a microcosm.
De Ludo Scachorum, while translated into English and published in 1474, was definitely not a Renaissance work, but was rather entrenched in Medieval philosophy. Cessolis was thought to have given a series of sermons, using chess as his allegorical theme, designed to help define the moral and ethical responsibilities of each of his listeners' positions in life. Because of the popularity of these sermons, Cessolis (1288-1322) was induced by his admirers to put them in a book form. At that time printing hadn't yet been invented and copies were made by scribes who often signed and dated their manuscripts. One of the earliest copies of De Ludo Scachorum was scribed by Francis Gennay (probably of the Bologna area of Italy) in 1409.
An example of the text from a circa 1446 manuscript of De Ludo Scachorum
The kynge must be thus maad. For he must sitte in a chayer clothed in purpure crowned on his heed in his ryght hand a ceptre and in the lyfte hande an apple of gold
Thus ought the Quene be maad she ought to be a fair lady sittynge in a chayer and crowned wyth a corone on her heed and cladd wyth a cloth of gold & a mantyll aboue furrid wyth ermynes And she shold sytte on the lyfte syde of the kinge for the amplections and enbrasynge of her husbonde lyke as it is sayd in scripture in the canticles
Bishops - Judge (Alphyn)
The Alphyns ought to be made and formed in manere of Iuges syttynge in a chayer wyth a book open to fore their eyen And that is be cause that some causes ben crymynell And some ben cyuyle as aboute possessyons and other temporell thynges and trespaces And therfore ought to be two Iuges in the royame one in the black for the first cause And that other in whyte as for the seconde Theyr office is for to counceyll the kynge And to make by his comandements good lawes And to enforme alle the royame in good and vertuous maners And to Iuge and gyue sentence well and truly after the caas is had And to counceyll well and Iustely alle them that are counceyll of hem wyth oute hauynge of ony eye opene to ony persone And to estudye diligently in suche wyse and to ordeygne alle that that ought to be kept be obseruyd be faste and stable So that they be not founde corrupt for yeft for favour ne for lignage ne for enuye variable And as touchynge the first poynt Seneque sayth in the book of benefetes that the poure
The knyght ought to be made alle armed upon an hors in suche wyse that he haue an helme on his heed and a spere in his ryght hande and coueryd wyth his sheld a swerde and a mace on his lyft syde Cladd wyth an hawberk and plates to fore his breste legge harnoys on his legges Spores on his heelis on his handes his gauntelettes his hors well broken and taught and apte to bataylle and couerid with his armes whan the knyghtes ben maad they ben bayned or bathed that is the signe that they shold lede a newe lyf and newe maners also they wake alle the nyght in prayers and orysons vnto god that he wylle gyue hem grace that they may gete that thynge that they may not gete by nature The kynge or prynce gyrdeth a boute them a swerde in signe that they shold abyde and kepe hym of whom they take theyr dispenses and dignyte. Also a knyght ought to be wise, liberall, trewe, stronge and full of mercy and pite and kepar of the peple and of the lawe
Rook - governors
The rooks whiche ben vicaires and legats of the kynge ought to be made lyke a knyght vpon an hors and a mantell and hood furryd with meneuyer holdynge a staf in his hande & for as moche as a kyng may not be in alle places of his royame Therfore the auctorite of hym is gyuen to the rooks whiche represent the kynge And for as moche as a royame is grete and large and that rebellion or nouelletes might sourdre and aryse in oon partye or other therfore ther ben two rooks one on the right side and that other on the lifte side They ought to haue in hem. pyte. Iuftice. humylite. wilfull
Than I shall begynne fyrst at the fyrst pawne that is in the playe of the chesse And signefieth a man of the comyn peple on fote For they be all named pietous that is as moche to saye as footemen And than we wyll begynne at the pawne whiche standeth to fore the rooke on the right side of the kinge for as moche as this pawne apperteyneth to serue the vicaire or lieutenant of the kynge and other officers vnder hym of necessaryes of vitayll And this maner a peple is figured and ought to be maad in the forme & shappe of a man holdynge in his ryght hande a spade or shouell And a rodde in the lifte hand The spade or shouell is for to delue & labour therwith the erthe And the rodde is for to dryue & conduyte wyth all the bestes vnto her pasture also he ought to haue on his gyrdell a crokyd hachet for to cutte of the supfluytees of the vignes & trees
The seconde pawne y't standeth to fore the knyght on the right side of the kynge hath the forme and figure of a man as a smyth and that is reson For hit apperteyneth to y'e knyghtes to haue bridellys sadellys spores and many other thynges made by the handes of smythes and ought to holde an hamer in his right hande. And in his lyfte hand a dolabre and he ought to haue on his gyrdell a trowell For by this is signefied all maner of werkemen as goldsmithes. marchallis, smithes of all forges forgers and makers of monoye & all maner of smythes ben signefyed by the hamer The carpenters ben signefyed by the dolabre or squyer And by the trowell we vnderstande all masons & keruars of stones tylers and alle them that make howses castels & tours
The thirde pawne whiche is sette to fore the Alphyn on the right side ought to be figured as a clerk And hit is reson that he shold so be For as moche as amonge y'e comon peple of whom we speke in thys book they plete the differencis contencions and causes otherwhile the whiche behoueth the
The fourth pawn is sette to for the kynge And is formed in the fourme of a man holding in his ryght hand a balance And the weyght in the lifte hand And to fore hym a table And at his gurdell a purse fulle of monoye redy for to gyue to them that requyre hit And by this peple ben signefied the marchans of cloth lynnen and wollen & of all other marchandises And by the table that is to for hym is signefied y'e changeurs And they that lene money And they that bye & selle by the weyght ben signefyed by the balances and weight
The pawn that is sette to fore the quene signefyeth the phisicyen spicer and Apotyquaire and is formed in the figure of a man And he is sette in a chayer as a maystre and holdeth in his right hand a book And an ample or a boxe wyth oynementis in his lyft hand And at his gurdell his Instrumentis of yron and of siluer for to make Incysions and to serche woundes and hurtes and to cutte apostumes And by thyse thynges ben knowen the cyrurgyens By the book ben vnderstanden the phisicyens and alle gramaryens. logicyens maistres of lawe. of Geometrye. Arismetryque. musique and of
The sixthe pawn whiche standeth to fore the Alphyn on the lyfte syde is made in thys forme. For hit is a man that hath the right hande stracched oute as for to calle men And holdeth in his lyfte hande a loof of breed and a cuppe of wyn And on his gurdell hangynge a boudell of keyes And this resembleth the Tauerners. hostelers. and sellars of vitaylle. And thise ought proprely to be sette to fore the Alphyn as to fore a Iuge For ther sourdeth ofte tymes amonge hem contencion noyse and stryf whiche behoueth to be determyned and trayted by the alphyn whiche is Iuge of the kynge And hit apperteyneth to them for to seke and enquyre for good wyns and good vitayll for to gyue and selle to the byers And to them that they herberowe And hit apperteyneth to them well to kepe their herberowes and Innes and alle tho thyngis that they brynge in to their loggynge and for to putte hyt in seure and sauf warde and kepynge And the firste of them Is signefyed by the lyfte hande in whiche he bereth brede and wyn and the seconde is signefied by the right hande whiche Is stracched oute to calle men And the thirde is representid by the keyes hangynge on y'e gurdell And thyse maner of peple ought teschewethe synne of glotonye
The gardes and kepars of of cytees ben signefied by the vii pawn whiche stondeth in the lyfte side to fore the knyght And is formed in the semblance of a man holdynge in his right hande grete keyes And in his lifte hande a potte & an elle for to mesure with And ought to haue on hys gurdell a purse open/ And by the keyes ben signefyed the kepars of the cytees and townes and comyn offices And by the potte and elle ben signefyed them that haue the charge to weye and mete & mesure truly And by the purse ben signefyed them that reseyue the costumes. tolles. scawage. peages and duetes of the cytees & townes
The rybaulders, players of dyse and of messagers and corrours ought to be sette to fore the rook For hit apperteyneth to the rook whiche is vicayre & lieutenant of the kynge to haue men couenable for to renne here and there for tenquyre & espie the place and cytees that myght be contrarye to the kynge And thys pawn that representeth thys peple ought to be formed in this maner he must haue the forme of a man that hath longe heeris and black and holdeth in his ryght hand a lityll monoye And in his lyfte hande thre Dyse And aboute hym a corde in stede of a gyrdell and ought to haue a boxe full o lettres And by the first whiche is money is vnderstand they that be fole large & wastours of theyr goodes And by the seconde whiche is the dyse Ben represented the players at dyse Rybauldes and butters And by the thyrde whiche is the boxe full of lettres ben representid the messagers.