Chess is one of the few mind games that is quite popular among the generation of today. A recreational and competitive game, it basically involves participation by two players. Though the origin of the game is pretty old, it continues to indulge people till date. It is played by millions of people worldwide, in clubs, online, by correspondence, in tournaments and also casually. In fact, chess has managed to become one of the games played at the international level and forms a part of the Olympic Games also. In this article, we will tell you about the history of chess.
Interesting Information on Background of Chess
Chess is said to have originated in India, where it was played as far back as the 6th century, in a crude form called ‘chaturanga’. The terms ‘chaturanga’ meant ‘four divisions of the military, namely - infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots. All the four divisions found representation in the game, in the form of pawn, knight, bishop and rook, respectively. As the game went to Persia, it came to be known as ‘shatranj’ and witnessed many new rules being made. With the invasion of Persian, the Muslims were also introduced to it.
With time, ‘chaturanga’ or ‘shatranj’ crossed international boundaries and entered Spain, where it was known as ‘ajedrez’. The Greeks also came into contact with it, calling it ‘zatrikion’. As for the rest of the Europe, the version of Persian shah (king) became popular, later on. Somewhere around the 9th century, chess made inroads into Western Europe and Russia, by at least three routes. By the year 1000, everyone in Europe knew about the game. Moors introduced the game in Iberian Peninsula, in the 10th century.
The modification of the game started somewhere around the year 1200, in southern Europe. However, it was only around mid-15th century that the game started developing in the form as we now of today, mainly in Italy and Spain. Pawns got the option to go two squares on the first move, while queen attained the status of the most powerful piece. Even the bishop acquired the modern abilities. Soon, the new rules spread across the Western Europe. Apart from the rules about stalemate, which were made in the 19th century, almost all the other modern rules had been made by then.
Chess started to develop a corpus of theory somewhere around the end of 15th century. The oldest book on chess, till date, is Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez (Repetition of Love and the Art of Playing Chess), by Spanish churchman Luis Ramirez de Lucena. It was published in Salamanca, in the year 1497. With time, masters like Pedro Damiano (Portuguese), Giovanni Leonardo Di Bona (Italian), Gioachino Greco (Italian) and Bishop Ruy López de Segura (Spanish) developed elements of opening the game and also started studying simple endgames.
As the center of European chess life moved from Southern European countries to France, in 18th century, other chess masters came into being. Amongst them were François-André Danican Philidor & Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais. It was the coffee houses in big European cities, like Café de la Régence in Paris and Simpson's Divan in London, which gave a further push to the game. The 19th century saw chess organizations, chess clubs, chess books, chess journals and, inter-city chess matches come into being. In 1843, von der Lasa and Bilguer's ‘Handbook of Chess’, an all-inclusive manual of chess theory, was published.
Transformation into a Sport
It was in the 1851 that chess transformed completely into sport, with the first modern chess tournament being held in London. The theory of chess was further formed with the win of Paul Morphy and Wilhelm Steinitz. While the former concentrated on the right strategy and attacks, the latter focused on minimizing own weaknesses and exploiting the opponent's weak spots. The first official World Chess Championship is regarded as the one organized in 1886, in which Wilhelm Steinitz beat Johannes Zukertort.
After Steinitz, came Emanuel Lasker (German), a mathematician who maintained the title of a master for 27 years, the longest tenure of all World Champions. It was José Raúl Capablanca, a prodigy from Cuba, who broke the German dominance by winning the title. After winning for the next seven years, he finally lost to Russian-French Alexander Alekhine. The concept of using distant pieces rather than with pawns was introduced between the two World Wars, by new theoretical school of ‘hyper-modernists’ like Aron Nimzowitsch and Richard Réti.
World Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded in Paris, in the year 1924. Three years later, the world saw the formation of the Women's World Chess Championship, whose first winner was Czech-English master Vera Menchik. Before the formation of FIDE, it was the World Champion who decided the challenger that he would play for the title. Thereafter, the challenger had to seek sponsors for the match. However, it was FIDE that set up the system of qualifying tournaments and matches.
In 1993, players Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short broke with FIDE and formed Professional Chess Association (PCA). The presence of simultaneous World Championships and, as a result, two World Champions continued till 2006. The year 2006 saw Kramnik beat the FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov and become the undisputed World Chess Champion. Following this, both the titles were unified. The current World Chess Champion is Viswanathan Anand, who won the championship tournament in September 2007.