64 Squares. 32 Pieces. 2 Rivals. One Checkmate: The Evolution of Chess – Part 1
Posted on: January 18, 2018.

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Chess is one of the most complex games ever invented, which requires the simultaneous application of strategy and tactics—a feat which is beyond the capability of most. The precursors of modern chess that we play today had its origins in India during the reign of the Gupta Empire i.e. between 4th and 6th century A.D.

Chess, in its early form in the 6th century, was known as chaturaṅga, which referred to the “four divisions” of the military—infantry (foot soldiers), horse (cavalry), camel/chariot fleet, and elephant fleet—represented by the four modern chess pieces: pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. The rook is colloquially called ‘castle’ and ‘tower’.

Ashtapada, Sanskrit for “one with eight legs”, was played with dice on an 8-by-8 checkered board. Chess was called chatrang in Sassanid Persia around 600 A.D., and the word was subsequently absorbed into the Hindi language in which it was called shatranj (“shath-ranj”).

A 7th century A.D. Persian poem mentioned chess spreading from India to Persia (modern Iran), where it was claimed to have been used to educate Persian princes and to simulate battle scenarios for the nobility who had no real enemies to fight.

Persian chess players started exclaiming “Shāh!”—the Persian word for “king”—when attacking the opponent’s King, and “Shāh Māt!”—Persian for “the king is helpless”—when the king was well-and-truly trapped. Thus, “Checkmate” in English was derived from the Persian phrase “Shāh Māt”.

These exclamations persisted in chess as it traveled to other lands. Subsequently, chess became know to the Islam world in 7th century after the Persian Empire was conquered by the Moslems.

…continued in the next part

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