Chess history guesses
playing let us ponder deeply the origin and history of the game which are clouded in mystery. It is one of the most ancient of games, and there are many stories and legends told about it. From its early days it was more than just a pastime; chess, from what is known, is a duel between two players, a mental "Game of War". Each player trying to find a loophole in the error in the logic of their opponent and after the correct strategic moves, one side overthrows the forces of his opponent; then checkmates the King to victory. As the chess master Siegbert Tarrach explained, "Chess like love, like music, has the power to make men happy." Originally the game of chess was called CHATURANGA in Sanskrit, CHATRANG in Persian, and SHATRANJI in Arabic. The name of the game is based on the Persian word SHAH, meaning king. The name became known in the early years as SCACCUS in Latin and in Hebrew SHACH; later it became known throughout the English speaking countries as CHESS. The earliest reference to chess can be found in a Persian romantic story written around 560 A.D.; it told of a prince who was skilled in horseriding, hunting, and in the game of chess. Another early document from Persia, written in the seventh century, is the "Book of Chess", the story of an Indian king, who had sent a chess set to the Persian king Chosros I (531-538 A.D.) Legend has it that it was Alexander the Great of Ancient Greece
(356-323 B.C.) that brought the game of chess to Persia and India. The Grecian people played a board game (PETTEIA or PESSEIA), which required skill and logic. This game was brought in during the conquest of Alexander to the East. In India this game was mixed with a local one (CHATURANGA) which symbolized the four elements of battle - chariots, elephants, cavalry and infantry. Thus producing the game of pure calculation, which is known today as chess. The armies of Alexander carried the game of battle or chess through the regions bordering the Caspian Sea to Persia. The history of the country offers interesting information to the game of chess. The regions south and east of the Sea was the home of the earliest Persian chess players of renown. The most famous was as-Suli (died 946 A.D.) whose games are still studied by chess scholars. Another legend has that it was the Arabs who brought the game to the West. To the Arabs, chess was game of knowledge and one of chance and fate, and the game was popular and widespread in the Moslem countries. Arab caravans carried the chessboard on the route of Moorish conquerors to Spain. "Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days Where Destiny with Men for Pieces play; Hither and thither moves; and mates; and slays, And one by one back in the Closet lays". (Omar Khayyam) The spread of the game of chess from the countries of Moslem Jewish scholars brought about tradition to the Christian world. Those Jewish scholars carried their chessboard to various European Countries after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain during the period of the Inquisition in 1492. Jewish scholars translated the rules of the game from Arabic to Castilian language, and afterwards Christian monks translated it from Castilian to Latin. "He is master over his intermediary causes. For a similar reason it is unlikely that the weak chess player should beat the strong one. One cannot speak of good or bad fortune in a game of chess, as in war between two princes.” (Judah Halevi - HA KUZARI, chapt. 'The Realm of Man') Jews and chess had an earlier history. After the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70AD, a wave of Jewish refugees flocked to Babylonia. Determined not to loose their way of life they saw to their historic duty to record their past, their culture and laws. Numerous scholars systematically compiled the post Biblical collections and codification of Jewish oral laws, thus producing the first MISNAH, compiled in 200 AD, forming the basic part of the TALMUD, the collection of Jewish law and tradition. (The first edition of the TALMUD was produced in Palestine in 400 AD; the most important larger one was produced in Babylonia in 500 AD.) Games played with a board and pieces were known among the Jewish communities at the time of the Talmud, which presents an authentic historical record of its age. However, it is almost certain that the games played mentioned in the Talmud can be identified as chess or a precursor of the game. The interpretation of the playing of chess during the Talmudic era is designated mainly by two Aramaic words, NARDSHIR and ISKUNDREE. There is agreement by scholars that the word NARDSHIR has reference to a board games
played with little pieces (GURYATA KITANYANA - little cubes.) In a passage of the KIDDUSHIM (blessing), the word ISKUNDREE is mentioned during a discussion at the Samuel's Academy as a game, that interferes with the study of the HALAKHAH, Jewish law and tradition. (The word ISKUNDREE most probably referred to ISKANDAR, the Arabic and Persian version of the name Alexander. Scholars surmise it was the Talmud's intention to designate chess as Alexanders's game - to suggest that game was invented in the West and brought to Persia by Alexander the Great.) The later ABU ZAKARIYA chess manuscript, "The Delight of the Intelligent" is an example of a Jewish literary figure, Abu Zakim Yahya Ibn Ibrahim al-Hakim (little is known of his life) who recorded works in Arabic. The manuscript reflects a less developed stage in the history of chess; the game is described in traditional Muslim lines with no hint of later innovations. Some invaluable Jewish writings comes from medieval Spain where the golden age of Jewish literature reigned in all its glory; it coincided with the golden age of Muslim literature. Chess is mentioned in the works of the greatest Jewish literary figures of the eleventh and twelfth centuries; Maimonides, Yehuda Halevi and above all Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1167). Ibn Ezra's poem on chess incorporates the earliest account of the rules of chess to be written in Europe. Another interesting Hebrew work on Chess is the "Elegant Address on the Game of Chess' by Ibn Yehia (date unknown). An important figure in the history of the game of chess was Thomas Hyde (1636-1702). He was the first scholar to explore the theme of chess in Hebrew literature, with the help of the Jewish scholar Isaac Abenda, a lecturer in Hebrew at Oxford. His treatises was arranged and published in two volumes under the title SYNTAGMA DISSERTATIONUM. The second volume included a translation of the MOREH NEVOCHIM, The Guide to the Perplexed by Maimonides where there is mention of the chess game in the writings. Thomas Hyde also published another treatise on chess, which combines two works: One part is devoted to history of chess, while the other contains the history of games. A section is entitled 'The History of Three Jews' - two of the works are by Ibn Ezra and Ibn Yehia. The third work is an anonymous prose called MA'ADANEH MELECH replete with Biblical and Talmudic illusions. (It was suggested it was written by the Venetian rabbi, Judah Aryeh Modena in 1626, a tract against gambling, which included the game of chess.) The poem entitled 'The Struggle' by Jacob Eichenbaum (1796-1861) is perhaps the finest romantic description of the game of chess written in the Hebrew language. The 18th century treatise 'The Noble Game of Chess' by Philip Stama where the rules of the game are discussed in detail - the poem is preceded by the famous proverb "For the wise counsel thou shalt make the war." (Proverbs 24:6) In the history of chess, the fifteenth century saw important changes in the rules of the game. New rules that increased the powers of queens and bishops which sped up the tempo of the game. It resulted in a form of chess to that which is played today. Until the nineteenth century, chess was usually played by the educated classes of society. The 19th century saw a change in the popularity of the game. Brilliant players challenged people to play against them for money. It led rapidly to organized national and international tournaments. Later it led to the declaration of a world champion. Samuel Herman Reshevsky, a Polish Jew astounded the world of chess and was dubbed 'the boy wonder of chess'. In the early twentieth century he became a child prodigy at the age of six and gained master status by the time he was nine. In the year 1920 he obtained American citizenship
where he achieved spectacular feats in the game and winning international tournaments. He was the author of "Reshevsky on Chess (1948) and "How Chess Games are Won" (1962) He passed away at the age of 81 on April 4, 1992. Bobby Fischer (born in 1943, Chicago, Illinois) became the world's youngest player ever to become grandmaster - from 1958-1972. In 1972 became the first American to become chess champion of the world. (Losing it by refusing a challenge by the Russian Anatoly Karpov.) Then, in 1975, in a five million dollar match in war-torn Yugoslavia beat Boris Spassky and regained the title.. Gary Kasparov, the youngest world champion (1985, 1986, 1987) had the honor in 1997 by being defeated by IBM's chess-playing super computer in a six game exhibition match. Male domination of the game experienced the first chink in their armor when the three Hungarian-Jewish sisters, the Polgars, entered into the front line of the world-class chess masters. In December 1991, Judith, the youngest at the age of 15, achieved the rank of grandmaster against male competition. ...and the history of chess continues. "Your move....." NOTES: 1) A chess tournament was played during the Great Exhibition (Crystal Palace Exhibition) in London in 1851. The German Karl Ernest Adolph Anderssen won first prize and was declared the unofficial world champion of chess. 2) The first to earn the official title of world chess champion was the German Jew, Wilhelm Steinitz. He lost his title in 1894 to another German Jew, Immanuel Lasker, who is regarded as one of the greatest player of all time.