Where Did Chess Originate?
No one is certain where chess originated. Some think it was first played centuries ago in India as a game of mock warfare. The name “chess” comes from the Persian word “shah,” meaning “king.” Chess is like a game of war between two kingdoms.
Each army consists of a king, queen, bishops, knights and rooks. The object is to force your opponent’s king to surrender. Each player uses his men to protect his own king and to attack the enemy king. “Checkmate,” the word for the winning move, comes from the Persian “shah mat,” or “the king is dead!”
From India, merchants took the game to Persia where it came to be called Shatranj. At the same time travelers took the game to China where it was played in a modified form called Xianqui. The Japanese, when they came to know of it, called it Shogi.
The Crusaders from Europe who came to fight the Holy Wars in Palestine against the Muslim Saladdin in the 12-13th century took the game to Europe. They called it ‘chess’ from the Old French word ‘echec’ meaning ‘check’.
The pieces were made of ivory and consisted of a King, Rook or Castle, knights and a Pawn. To be in the good books of the powerful Catholic influence of the time, a piece called the ‘Bishop’ was also added. The most important piece, the minister, was replaced by the only female piece, the Queen.
It was only in the 20th century that chess began to be played as a professional game. Seeing how popular these were, newspapers began to publish each game move by move. Then in 1924 the Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE) was set up to formulate rules to supervise the game.
Players also began to be rated for their performance. They were called International Masters. If they were the best of the best they became known as Grandmaster.
FIDE also laid the rule that every player must say ‘echec’ or ‘check’ when the king is in a position of being captured. The king is therefore checkmated ending the game. Computers too made the game easier to learn and play. While the average computer can beat an amateur, most experts can beat the computer.