Dec 30, 2014, 2:13 AM |


Krishna and Radha playingchaturanga on an 8×8 Ashtāpada

The earliest precursor of modern chess is a game called chaturanga, which flourished in India by the 6th century, and is the earliest known game to have two essential features found in all later chess variations—different pieces having different powers (which was not the case with checkers and Go), and victory depending on the fate of one piece, the king of modern chess.[10] The original chess board was mathematically revolutionary, as reported by the infamous Wheat and chessboard problem. A common theory is that India’s development of the board, and chess, was likely due to India’s mathematical enlightenment involving the creation of the number zero.[8] Other game pieces (speculatively called "chess pieces") uncovered in archaeological findings are considered as coming from other, distantly related board games, which may have had boards of 100 squares or more.[10] Findings in the Mohenjo-daro andHarappa (2600–1500 BCE) sites of the Indus Valley Civilization show the prevalence of a board game that resembles chess.[17]

Chess was designed for an ashtāpada (Sanskrit for "having eight feet", i.e. an 8×8 squared board), which may have been used earlier for a backgammon-type race game (perhaps related to a dice-driven race game still played in south India where the track starts at the middle of a side and spirals into the center).[18] Ashtāpada, the uncheckered 8×8 board served as the main board for playing chaturanga.[19] Other Indian boards included the 10×10 Dasapada and the 9×9Saturankam.[19] Traditional Indian chessboards often have X markings on some or all of squares a1 a4 a5 a8 d1 d4 d5 d8 e1 e4 e5 e8 h1 h4 h5 h8: these may have been "safe squares" where capturing was not allowed in a dice-driven backgammon-type race game played on the ashtāpada before chess was invented.[18]

The Cox-Forbes theory, proposed in the late 18th century by Hiram Cox, and later developed by Duncan Forbes, asserted that the four-handed game chaturaji was the original form of chaturanga.[20] The theory is no longer considered tenable.[21]

In Sanskrit, "chaturanga" (चतुरङ्ग) literally means "having four limbs (or parts)" and in epic poetry often means "army" (the four parts are elephants, chariots, horsemen, foot soldiers).[7] The name came from a battle formation mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata.[10] The game chaturanga was a battle-simulation game[7] which rendered Indian military strategy of the time.[22]

Some people formerly played chess using a die to decide which piece to move. There was an unproven theory that chess started as this dice-chess and that the gambling and dice aspects of the game were removed because of Hindu religious objections.[23]

Scholars in areas to which the game subsequently spread, for example the Arab Abu al-Hasan 'Alī al-Mas'ūdī, detailed the Indian use of chess as a tool for military strategymathematicsgambling and even its vague association with astronomy.[24]Mas'ūdī notes that ivory in India was chiefly used for the production of chess and backgammon pieces, and asserts that the game was introduced to Persia from India, along with the book Kelileh va Demneh, during the reign of emperorNushirwan.[24]

In some variants, a win was by checkmate, or by stalemate, or by "bare king" (taking all of an opponent's pieces except the king).

In some parts of India the pieces in the places of the rook, knight and bishop were renamed by words meaning (in this order) Boat, Horse, and Elephant, or Elephant, Horse, and Camel, but keeping the same moves.[18]

In early chess the moves of the pieces were:

Original nameModern nameVersionOriginal move
king king all as now
adviser queen all one square diagonally, only
elephant bishop Persia and west two squares diagonally (no more or less), but could jump over a piece between
an old Indian version two squares sideways or front-and-back (no more or less), but could jump over a piece between
southeast and east Asia one square diagonally, or one square forwards, like four legs and trunk of elephant
horse knight all as now
chariot rook all as now
foot-soldier pawn all one square forwards (not two), capturing one square diagonally forward; promoted to queen only

Two Arab travelers each recorded a severe Indian chess rule against stalemate:[25]

  • A stalemated player thereby at once wins.
  • A stalemated king can take one of the enemy pieces that would check the king if the king moves