Chess was the first board game ever

Chess history

The game of chess is a lake
in which a mosquito bathe
and an elephant can drown. "

Indian proverb

The history of the game of chess

The chess game is the oldest known board game in the world that is still actively played today.

Historical evidence goes into the Indian of the 3rd-6th centuries. Century of our era (the birth of Christ). If there is historical evidence, there are of course at least as many assumptions and theses that want to claim otherwise.

The fact is that if a game is proven that was already played intensively in a country as large as India 300 AD, it is sure to have a very long history.

This history, if some researchers believe, could have looked something like this:

At a time when there were still several active volcanoes in what is now Germany, hunters and gatherers went hunting to feed their tribe and get them through the winter. The fire had already been declared a sanctuary, without which survival would have been almost impossible. The people lived here in caves and small village settlements.

Lighting the fire was reserved for experts only. With flint stones that were struck together, sparks could be given off to the tinder (a kind of tree fungus that is extremely dry), which then began to glow. If you then carefully blew against the smoldering tinder, a fire was lit in no time by adding dry straw. You could use it to warm you up, but you could also fry or smoke your first dishes to make them more durable.

The chess board game

At the same time, only a few 1000 km away, according to archaeological findings, there were already production facilities for the production of chess boards in series.

The fragments found, which are estimated to be around 6,000 years old, were made of limestone and had stuck-on squares in two colors and a size of 4 x 4 cm (our tournament chessboards used today also have the same field size).

To be marveled at in the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin.

Find about 6000 years old Tschaturanga about 2700 years old Zweischach about 1600 years old. Since then the same line-up of figures

Other scientists suspect that the country of origin of the game of chess is to be found far to the north (Russia) or to the east (China) of India.

Board games were often depicted on reliefs and papyri in ancient Egypt.

A relief on the gateway to Medinet Abu from the 20th dynasty shows, for example, Ramses III. sitting at the game board with a lady-in-waiting.

Illustrated on papyrus rolls, it is brought back into connection with the cult of the dead.

The legend tells:

Three Indian sages bring a game of chess and dice to the Persian king.

Miniature from the chess book Alfons the Wise

Very good for this miniature

recognize: Two court ladies playing chess with musical accompaniment

The picture on the left shows an amphora from the Villa Giulia in Rome, which dates from the 5th century. BC is dated.

Contrary to the long-standing belief of scientists that the royal game was invented by the Greeks, the opposite has been proven in the last century.

Right in the picture: A fresco table in the grave of Pharaoh Xa ................... 1250 BC. in Karnak.

The ruler is shown playing a board game.

The game of chess is said to have been known to the Irish since their king Cahir-more (approx. 177 AD), which suggests that the game of chess was not necessarily brought to Europe by the Arabs by sea. Some historians only want this board game to have a lady-like character, but if you consider that the tower at that time was called bran (translated: raven - known in Indian four-chess), the term cosc ​​for chess similar to k-sh in Persian, certainly allows a comparison.

At that time there should have been no castling and no mate, which may lead to the conclusion that the game of chess came to the Irish Empire before the innovations in Europe. The independent name Fidcill also confirms the assumption of scientists that the arrival of the chess game from India, via Persia, Arabia and Italy to European countries does not have to be legal.

The discovery of a chalice, which was found near Chiusi and dates back to approx. 600 BC, throws us back even further. is dated. On this chalice two rulers (carrying scepter) are shown playing with differently shaped stones. Here one concludes that the game of chess is the first and oldest represented board game ever.

This chalice was found in the middle of Europe and brought in connection with armed conflicts between Etruscans and Celts. During the permanent expansion of Celtic culture in Ireland, not only linguistic elements but also cultural goods such as the game of chess were apparently taken over.

So now we have come to the historical evidence of the origin of the game of chess.

Nevertheless, we should abandon the theory “only what can be proven exists” from time to time.

In the verifiable 1st stage of development of the game of chess, we arrive in India around 300 - 600 AD, where the original form of the game was played.


The fourfold battle line

In a weekend seminar we, the chess players of the Chemnitz school model, explored the origin of the game of chess and recreated such an Indian chaturanga out of wood and ceramics.

Playing with four players was a lot of fun, not only because the game had to be rolled, which made the game of chess a game of chance, but also because the possible predictable moves left a few surprises in store.

In the topic "The development of the figures" you will learn a lot about the figures used at that time.

As you can see in the picture of our Tschaturangas, the four armies are positioned like this:

The opposing armies are friends and are always lined up in two rows at the lower right corner. As in today's chess game, foot soldiers line up in front of their officers in Chaturnga.

In the so-called Urschach there were of course no pieces as there are today, but typical Indian representatives. So (standing on the far right in the corner) no tower fought, but a chariot or boat, next to it a rider, further an elephant for today's runner and on the far right of the back row the king or general.

The figures were also not allowed to be drawn arbitrarily, but determined by an ancient Indian die.

For the one stands the soldier or, if you choose, the elephant, for the two stands the carriage / boat, for the three stands the rider (horse) and for the four stands the general / king.

The soldier is only allowed to move and hit one square straight ahead as usual (diagonally), the elephant pulls slowly and forcefully (today the tower) only one step straight ahead, the boat diagonally into the next field (crossing over the river), the horse had back then Just like today, every now and then problems with his riders, so: over to the third field! Like today's king, the general moves one square in each direction. The general can be defeated, if you defeat the friendly general, his army will be taken over. Whoever has destroyed all pieces wins.

Recommended for imitation!

In the next phase, the game of chess is taken over by the Persians. Persia conquered in the 6th century C.E. (approx. 570 AD) large parts of northern India. The Persians called the game


they developed it further into two-chess. Two armies each united, one general became king (Shah) the other general became vizier (firsan, dt .: adviser to the king). Since the vizier could not be better off than the king, he could just take a step in a diagonal direction.

And this is exactly where the following list was made (probably forever):

elephant (Tower), Rider war horse (Jumper), ship (Runner), vizier (Lady), commander (King) and on, ship, rider, elephant. Now everyone should try to play a game in this configuration with the features of old Chaturanga. Super boring! And that's how the Arabs felt when they got to know this game. The Arabs conquered Persia 6 years after Muhammad's death in 638. The Arabs, or even the Persians, called the game Schatrandsch (Shah - King) and there is no more dice (the Persians have largely dispensed with the dice). The rules of the game remained the same.

The chessboard and the arrangement of the pieces have not changed until today.

The first “professional” chess players appeared in the courts of the caliphs between the 7th and 9th centuries.

At some point in the 10th century the game of chess reached Europe via the sea routes (Sicily, Sardinia, Arab Spain and also from Central Asia [including the Vikings and Normans]).

If we ignore the Ireland thesis, we should assume that the first European stop was Italy.

However, the innovations in the gait of the chess pieces during the Renaissance (German: resurgence; rebirth) in Italy are considered certain.

In general, this time is considered to be the most important cultural epoch since the birth of Christ.

And indeed it seems that around the 12th century. to have changed everything.

With the exception of a few studies on the enlargement of the chessboard and for scientific purposes (mathematics), there have been no innovations in the game of chess since then (apart from the gait of the pieces, which is examined in more detail in the section "The development of the pieces").