Medieval/Renaissance chess



I´m a 3d artist currently working on recreating medieval/renaissance chess games.

Here an example of a renaissance chessgame:

Unfortunately I was not able to find much informations about authentic chess games from this period. Therefore I have a few question I wanted to ask here.

1. Do you know other authentic medieval/renaissance chessgames (except the lewis chess game)?

2. Where was the queen placed in the old version of chess?

3. Is there a chessgame where you can play the old way/Is there still someone playing it?

4. Is there some in depth infos about the old chess rules?


One place to start tracking down what you are looking for would be A History of Chess by Murray. Chess: the History of the Game by Eales may also be useful.


Unfortunately for you, nothing about Medieval Chess is cut and dry.  The direct sources are few and the indirect sources are conflicting.  Nothing was fixed and everwhere chess was played differently.

There are different terminology and different definitions to the same terms.  Duncan Forbes divided chess into 3 periods, the Primaeval (Chatauranga and other pre-Shatranj games), Medieval (Shatranj) and Modern (Mad Queen Chess). Other people, myself included, consider Shatranj a Muslim game and Medieval Chess  the game that bridged Shatranj and Modern chess.  In no way can Medieval Chess be called Renaissance Chess since Modern chess was born during the Renaissance and Medieval Chess, for all intents and purposed suddenly disappeared.

The first thing to remember is that full knowlege of both these games has been obscured by time. The second thing is that the game changed, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, as it spread. There were as many variations as there were location and there was absolutely no codification although some general ideas probably hold for most variations.  Not only that, but there were distinct, yet different, games called Chess in early works such as in El Sabio's "Libro del Acedrex."

In Shatranj, while the pieces have Arabic names, the set up corresponds to today's set up except the Shah or King sat on d1 and d8 while the  Firzans, somewhat like today's Queen were on e1 and e8.  The game was won by baring the opponent's King, i.e. capturing all his men or by checkmate. the Firzan moved diagonally one square at a time, the Fil (Bishop) moved diagonally 2 squares, leaping over the first square if occupied. the Baidaq (pawn) could only move one square on the first move.

Medieval chess was very similar.  Muslims prohibited representational pieces and the pieces were only different enough to tell them apart. Medieval chess used symbolic or sculpted pieces.  The pieces' names changed to correspond with those we use today.  I feel one of the reasons for change of the counselor piece, Firzan, to a Queen can be partly attributed to the use of representational pieces. At any rate, the set up was almost identical except the King's position was more flexible and he could sit on d1 or e1 but the enemy King had to be on the same file.

An interesting insight is give us by the 13th century Florentine ms, the "Bonus Socius."  This ms incorporated a collection of chess problems compiled in Lombardy during the 12th century.  The boards were divided into 64 squares, but unchequered. The names of the pieces in the text and the diagrams didn't always match.  It seems the diagrams were copied "as is" from the earlier work, but the text was added. So we see the diagram indicating a Firzan and the text referring to that same piece as "Regina" or Queen.  This shows the evolution of Firzan to a Queen between the 12th and 13th centuries, at least in a partcular area.