Chess Originated In Africa In Ancient Egypt, games were part of religious life. Their most popular game was Senat in which counters, or markers, were moved around a game board. Winning the game came by one player removing all of his/her pieces before the opponent did (Hawass,Tutankhamun, p235). A wall painting on the tomb of the Egyptian queen Nefretari, wife of Ramses II (1304-1237 BC), shows her playing Senat. It symbolizes the struggle between good and evil as well as stands magically for rebirth and resurrection. The African games known as Mancala or Wari are among the oldest games, dating back at least to 5000 BC. In these games, beans, seeds, and other small objects were moved around a playing board with hollowed out cups. A player tried to capture as many objects as possible. Both Senat and Mancala games and four other types were discovered when the tomb of Tutankhamen -- an Egyptian king who reigned from 1348-1339 BC -- was discovered. An Egyptian board game of primitive "checkers" from 1000 BC is in the British Museum. Another type -- called Nine Men's Morris, Mill, Morelles, or Morels -- has been found carved in the roofing slabs of an Egyptian temple and dating between 1400 and 1300 BC. The object of the game, of which there are many versions, is for each player to try to capture an opponent's piece and to prevent the opponent from moving any pieces. Note how closely this resembles Chess as we know it today. But Western literature admits that the origin of Chess is uncertain. Whenever such a statement is made, experience has taught me that the uncertainty most likely indicates it originated in Africa. Many Western scholars believe chess started in Pakistan as an offspring of a Hindu game under the Sanskrit name "Chaturanga" about 500 AD. Others say it is from India or China. Then the game spread to Persia where it was given the name "Shah" (which means "king") and "Shah mat" ('the king is dead'). The Arabs learned the game when they conquered Persia in the 600's and they introduced it into Europe by way of Spain, Sicily, and Constantinople. The pieces were named for roles in the courts of kings during the Middle Ages-king, queen, knight, and bishop. Chess' strategy and play are modeled on how wars were fought in the Middle Ages. By the 16th century chess moves had assumed their modern form. Chess is a board game consisting of a miniature battlefield whereby the opponents engage in organized attacks and defense, each conducted with the definite objective of protecting ones king from being trapped or "checkmated" (i.e. where the king is unable to escape capture). Every new game is a different battle and the players are the generals who plan the battle. Chess is one of the oldest of all games of pure mental skill as well as one of the most interesting and mind focusing and challenging of all board games. Every game of chess can be recorded in the form of a code so that after the game is over it can be studied to learn what was done properly and improperly. "After-study" is fundamental to any thinking process that calls for choices, decisions and solutions. Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D. More info:Senterej – Ethiopian chess with a flying start By Dr. René Gralla, Hamburg/Germany Historians and experts in cultural studies always look towards India, Persia and Arabia – and some even turn to China, more recently – when they search for the origins of chess. But with regard to Africa it is a sobering fact that up to now the science of chess has stubbornly ignored that continent which is the cradle of mankind. Africa remains a white spot in the relevant publications so far. That is deplorable since Africa has contributed its own creative and very entertaining version to the universe of chess: the Ethiopian variant "Senterej" that has emerged parallel to the hitherto well-known lines of development. It is thanks to the British historian Professor Richard Pankhurst that the web community can now learn a little bit more about this thrilling game, on the Tezeta web site. The following survey on history and rules of Senterej is mainly based on the findings of this expert from the UK. Born in London in 1927, Professor Pankhurst today lives and works in Ethiopia where he has founded the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at the University of Addis Ababa. One of the endearing aspects of Senterej is the fact that beginners do not have to face any major problem to find their way in the scenario of African chess. It is the familiar battleground of 64 squares where the two armies clash. You have only to get used to a different colour scheme: instead of "White" versus "Black", it is the "Green" King who wants to defeat the "Golden" Monarch. Moreover the board is not checkered, but uniformly red with fine blue lines marking the squares. Apart from the somewhat different visual impression in Senterej, the majority of pieces move the same way their counterparts do in Chess, i.e. they actually conform to the rules of FIDE. The foregoing is valid with regard to the "castle" (in Ethiopian "der"), that rumbles along like the modern rook, with regard to the "horse" (in Ethiopian: "ferese"), which is the equivalent of our knight, and more or less with regard to the "king", or the "negus", as the Ethiopians call him, and which has the same power as his European colleague, except for one difference: there is no privilege of castling in Senterej. The student of Senterej has to make himself familiar with two special pieces, though. Whereas the Western Ruler can count on a powerful Amazon standing by his side, namely the queen, the Ethiopian king must get along with a weak "Fers" or "Minister". This counsellor moves diagonally, but only one square at a time; therefore the "Fers" is the same as the "Vizier" in the Arabic game of Shatranj. This is a clear indication of the fact that the Ethiopians adopted Shatranj and transformed it into the African brand of chess they call Senterej. The Arab connection becomes manifest if we analyse the move of the Ethiopian "Elephant". The "Fil" or "Saba" corresponds to the bishop in western chess. The African Elephant moves diagonally by either trotting or jumping to the second square; as a result the "Fil" of Senterej corresponds to the Elephant of Arabic Shatranj. The heritage from the Golden Age of Arab Chess at the Court of the Caliphs at Baghdad finds expression in the pawn of Senterej as well. The Ethiopian "Medeq" is modelled on the pawn of Shatranj and marches forward one square per move, no matter if it is the starting position or not. Both in the Arab Shatranj and in Ethiopian Seneterj, there is no initial two-step pawn move, consequently there is no “en passant” capture option. An Ethiopian "Medeq" that reaches the base line of the opposing force can be replaced either by a Minister, the "Fers", or by a Castle, a Horse or an Elephant, provided the piece has already been captured by the enemy. The starting-out position of Senterej is the same as in western chess, but with three modifications: Elephants replace the Bishops; the green Negus, which corresponds to the white king, stands on e1, while the golden Negus is placed on d8; and the green Minister occupies d1, whereas the golden Minister stands on e8. So far, so good. But there is one unique feature of Senterej that contrasts strongly with all known variants of our eternal game: a match of Ethiopian Chess starts with the “Werera" (pronounced "way-ray-ruh"), the "mobilization phase", during which the players move as fast as they wish without waiting for their opponent to move. Thus both players may operate simultaneously. As Richard Pankhurst points out, in a brief study: Werera simulates "the marshalling of troops and advance, or, as one might put it, the deployment of forces for an attack in progress" on the chessboard (see: "History and Principles of Ethiopian Chess", in: Journal of Ethiopian Studies, 1971, XI, no. 2, p. 149 pp., p. 163). After Werera has started the opponents move as many pieces as they can lay their hands on. Though at this stage a stranger might suppose that there is great confusion on the board, Pankhurst reports that the duellists in fact keenly watch the moves of their adversary and change their tactics accordingly, frequently withdrawing the moves they have already made and substituting others so as to be in the most favourable position at the moment of the first capture. The mobilization phase ends when the first capture occurs. After that the players move alternately as in the modern game. The big advantage of Werera is that it creates randomized initial positions, which is why it makes no sense to memorize long sequences of openings. Senterej gives ample scope for creativity at the beginning of the game, unlike western chess, where a deep study of openings theory is a prerequisite to tournament success. There is no advantage to be gained from that in Senterej. Traditionally Senterej has been the favourite pastime of the Ethiopian nobility. Hence it is not surprising that there is a relentless code of honour with regard to checkmate. Pankhurst explains that all form of checkmates are not considered equally honourable (see: "History and Principles of Ethiopian Chess", in: Journal of Ethiopian Studies, 1971, XI, no. 2, p. 149 pp., p. 168 p). He cites Walter Plowden, British envoy to Ethiopia, in the middle of the 19th century and author of the book "Travels in Abyssinia and the Galla Country", who has observed that "for instance, a checkmate with the rooks or the knights is considered of the merest tyro", that is to say, these pieces, "though assisting in throwing the net round the enemy, must not deal the fatal stroke". The use of the Horse "is just endurable". Checkmate with a single Elephant "is tolerably good", the chess traveller on Her Majesty's Service state, but checkmating with two Elephants is "applauded – that is, so entangling the king that he has but two squares free", which, being commanded by the Elephants, "you check with one, and mate with the other". Plowden adds: "Mating with one, two, three or four pawns, the latter two particularly, is considered the non plus ultra of the game." Once more Professor Pankhurst refers to Plowden who unveiled one more "peculiarity" in Senterej: Checkmate is considered "more meritorious" if the adversary had not been denuded of all his major pieces. The foregoing is a matter of etiquette, but that is not all. There is a special trap the unsuspecting beginner can stumble into: it is almost necessary to leave the enemy King two of his "capital pieces", because, if you reduce him to one, say, an Elephant or a Horse, the opponent commences counting his moves, and you must checkmate him before he has made seven moves with that given piece, otherwise the match will be drawn. Pankhurst underlines that there is one more way out for the adversary in a desperate situation: the lonely Elephant or Horse, cannot be taken, as the game is considered drawn as soon as one side has lost all its capital pieces without having been checkmated. In a nutshell In Senterej both sides start playing at the same time without waiting for turns. They only start to take turns after the First Capture. The phase before first capture is called the Mobilization Phase or werera. Both opposing sides start at the same time, and may move their pieces as many times as they like without concern for the number of moves the opponent makes. The pieces move in the regular fashion, as under FIDE rules, which all apply, except in Senterej: 1. Pawn cannot capture en passant. 2. The two-square first move by a pawn is prohibited. Since a player can move the pawn an unlimited number of times during mobilization, the two-step rule is irrelevant. However, the two-square first move for pawns - if it were legal - would become relevant once the mobilization phase ends after first capture. Etiquette and protocol in Senterej also differs from other kinds of chess. It is considered better to defeat one's opponent while they still have strong pieces on the board. [Source: Wikipedia] Emperor Dawit II., better known by his birth name Lebna Dengel (1501-1540), has gone down in history as one of the early stars of Senterej. We learn from Pankhurst that the Negus Negest is said to have played chess with the Venetian artist Gregorio Bicini who worked at the Ethiopian court back then. Other big names in the history of Ethiopian Chess are Ras Michael Sehul of Tigre (ca. 1691-1779), his grandson Ras Wolde Sellassie (ca. 1745-1816) and Sahle Sellassie, King of Shewa (ca. 1795-1847). And there was even a strong female player who taught her male challengers many bitter lessons at the board of Senterej: Taytu Betul (ca. 1851-1918), the third of four children in an aristocratic Ethiopian family that was related to the Solomonic Dynasty – the traditional Imperial House of Ethiopia, claiming descent from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Taytu Betul married King Menelik of Shewa, later Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. The decendent of the Queen of Sheba has lived up to her name by answering the Italian envoy, Count Antonelli, who tried to bully the hesitant Menelik II into accepting the establishment of a protectorate over Ethiopia: "I am a woman. I do not like war. However, I would rather die than accepting your deal. We have our dignity to preserve." The outspoken and courageous Empress took part in the campaign of 1895-96 against the Italian expeditionary corps that invaded Ethiopia after the breakdown of the negotiations with Rome. She joined forces with Emperor Menelik II and the Imperial Army, commanding 3000 cannoneers at the Battle of Adowa, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for Italy on March 1st, 1896. Senterej was still being played at the Imperial Palace in Addis Ababa at the time of the second Italian invasion 1935-1936. During the second half of the 20th century, however, Senterej has increasingly been superseded by modern chess. One of the last old masters of Senterej, Miikael Imru, sadly passed away in 2008. But more recently there have been plans to start a revival of Senterej. Richard Pankhurst has proposed staging a tournament of Senterej, and there are plans to organize it on the occasion of Ethiopias National Holiday, the Day of Adowa on March 2nd, 2010. It could be a festive affair: the audience at a Senterej game is not compelled to be silent. On the contrary: provided that is not an official tournament every onlooker can participate and has a voice in the game. The spectators are even allowed to touch the pieces in order to suggest advisable moves. That is the cheerful African spirit in chess – just the way Empress Taytu Betul loved it.
It seems disingenuous to equate Africa and Egypt and give credit to "Africa" because complex board games orginated in Egypt. Egypt was clearly tied to the Mediterranean World. Ancient Egypt should be considered part of the Near East, (along with Assyria,The Babylonian Empire,Palestine,etc.) And after Alexander the Great, Alexandria is in the sphere of Mediterranean Europe. North Africa was the breadbasket of Rome and when it was lost to the Vandals, it was considered part of the Roman Empire that was lost. The fringe of Africa along the Mediterranean is part of the Mediterranean World. Let's be real about this: Sub-Saharan Africa is not part of the picture here. It would be like saying that Germanic tribes in Scandinavia were really influencing everything happening in Southern Europe behind the scenes. Well I guess they did ultimately, but not until they were actually in Southern Europe. The most efficient form of travel in the ancient world was via water, and that is why the Mediterranean was the focus of everything. (It is why for example Russia was irrelevant for centuries until Peter the Great created the fresh-water port of Saint Petersburg on the Baltic.)Also the second article on Ethiopian "chess" says unequivocally they got it from the Arabs: "This counsellor moves diagonally, but only one square at a time; therefore the "Fers" is the same as the "Vizier" in the Arabic game of Shatranj. This is a clear indication of the fact that the Ethiopians adopted Shatranj and transformed it into the African brand of chess they call Senterej." So putting the two articles together, you can deduce the chain is Egypt->Arabia->Ethiopia.
A magnificent treatise. There is a tendency to claim everything as originating in Europe (Ancient Greece) but did all this just suddenly emerge in that country and that period? No, invention: writing, building, mathematics, commerce; farming and irrigation, medicine, etc, etc ariginated in Africa. The only issue being that such discoveries were part of a secret sect and not claimed ny individuals as they do in europe.
Chess is not one of those things though, I have never seen a claim that chess comes from ancient greece.
I read that it originayed in China. Apparently it was a branch off a similar game.
haha OP, next your gonna say santa isnt real
its funny how ppl are so quick to separate Egypt from the rest of Africa, would u separate Timbuktu from Africa? would you separate Germany from Europe? no you wouldn't i hope you do realize that the Egyptian cultures still exists today in all parts of Africa,(the yoruba, the dogon) to say what you said is simply racial politics...also to add the egyptians cultures comes from the nubia around present day sudan
Senterej is descended from shatranj which comes from Persia. The OP's statement But Western literature admits that the origin of Chess is uncertain. Whenever such a statement is made, experience has taught me that the uncertainty most likely indicates it originated in Africa betraysa blatant anti-Western and pro-African bias, as well as being absurd. Western science is uncertain where cosmic rays come from, so I suppose the OP is certain they emanate from Africa.
history that has been taught and agreed upon alone is blatantly anti-African pro-west/euro so anything i post that contradicts this traditional racist driven view of history and civilization will automatically be looked at as pro-Africa anti west/euro and looked at as absurd..even with evidence
This is very interesting information about the board games played in ancient Egypt and the Ethiopian "Senterej ". But I don't see any proof of the bold statement in the title "Chess Originated In Africa " in there?
Didn't Chess come from India?
i guess a better title would be "chess has its origins tied in africa"
I was also taught that chess came from India. Whatever country brought chess to people seeking a challenging game that would stand the test of time and make people think and enjoy, I am thankful.
What's the difference?
Senet, as described in the first article has a different board, no pieces ressembling the chess men and we aren't even sure of its rules. Indian Chaturanga on the other hand has obvious features that relate it to modern chess. It's hardly surprising that scholars usually see the origin of chess in the latter rather than in the former.
As for the second article, it clearly states a theory that Ethiopian Senterej originated from Arabic shatranj.
I can also post articles that claim chess was originated in China..in India...in Europe...and in pretty much any aother part of the world.
right - ur talking sense - shatranj
"But more recently there have been plans to start a revival of Senterej. Richard Pankhurst has proposed staging a tournament of Senterej, and there are plans to organize it on the occasion of Ethiopias National Holiday, the Day of Adowa on March 2nd, 2010. It could be a festive affair: the audience at a Senterej game is not compelled to be silent. On the contrary: provided that is not an official tournament every onlooker can participate and has a voice in the game. The spectators are even allowed to touch the pieces in order to suggest advisable moves. That is the cheerful African spirit in chess – just the way Empress Taytu Betul loved it."
It sounds to me like chess is better off without too much African input.
there are many theories about it.. it is such a CONTROVERSIAL matter.. but, i dont agree that CHESS originated in AFRICA, rather it did in INDIA, which we all know..
I don't doubt the existence of all these games or that Chess is influenced by them, but the fact is the one thing historians agree upon is that the chequered board used in the modern game is definitively European, what country I have no idea. So the game as we know it today must have come from Europe.
Refer to Wikipedia and U knw the fact.
Chess ws introduced to Emperor Akbar in his court by a scholar mathmatician and inventor of this game. The queens took this game to Persia for playing while travelling. From Persia to Africa then Europe and so on...