The Stories behind the origin of Chess

Team Muqaabla    

Chess is a widely admired game not only in India, but all over the world. Its popularity traces back to the large amount of decisiveness and strategizing that is required to play this game. In the era of digitalization, the game of chess has been taken to a whole new level. The first ever Chess World Championship was held in 1886; William Steinitz emerged a champion in this tournament. The world-wide popularity of Chess has led to many historians digging deep into the origin of this sport. In this article we will explore some of the most common stories about the birth of this game.


The Chinese Lineage of Chess

The Chinese version of Chess is called Xiangqi, meaning ‘The elephant Game’. It is different from Chess, in terms of rules, board size and pieces. Still, many believe that this is where modern-day chess originated from. In Chinese, ‘Xian’ means elephant and ‘qi’ means chess. The story so goes that in 200 BC, Chinese commander Han Xin came up with the game in order to represent a certain battle. Once this important battle was over, the game was duely forgotten before it emerged again in the 7th century. This time, the rules were very different from the previous version of the game. Henceforth, the popular belief emanated that this game travelled to India and Persia and the existing game of Chess originated from here.

J. R. Murray’s book “A History of Chess

This book was published in 1913. It explains how the game of chess came into being. According to Murray, the game took birth in North India and then travelled to Persia before spreading over the whole of Asia. Chess was predominantly used in the Persian and Indian courts as a study into nobility. The game was used to teach the different rules and strategies of ruling a kingdom. During this time, the words ‘Shah Mat’ was often used by the nobility. The phrase literally translates to ‘the king is helpless’. It is believed that the term ‘check-mate’ used in modern-day chess actually comes from the Persian rendition. A typical game of chess after all, comes to an end after the King has been cornered from all sides.

The origin of Chess through a famous Indian Legend

Originally, Shatranj was a game invented by a wise man residing in the tyrannical kingdom of a shallow-hearted king. The man devised a game very similar to real life. The chess-board was the representation of a kingdom, with pieces that depicted the King, Queen, minister knights and pawns. The wise man wanted to make the king understand that all these characters were important for a large kingdom. After the King was impressed and had learnt his first lesson, the wise man had another trick up his sleeve. While being rewarded in gold and silver, he declined all of that and asked the king to put a grain of wheat on the first square and keep doubling the number as the squares went on. At this the king understood that, there was not enough wheat to put on the board.

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