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Interesting Chess Facts

Because the chess game is being one of the oldest games created there are many interesting facts surrounding this game? Many researchers say that chess originates from India, due to its similarities to a Hindu game called Chaturanga that has been around just as long. However, there are some that believe it originates from China, 2nd century BC and the word checkmate actually derives from a Persian phrase shah mat, translating into the king is defeated. The game is so lost in its antiquity that no-one really knows where its origins lay.

Chess originated in India in the 6th century. It was called “chaturanga”, which means literary “four divisions of the military”. Another theory is that is started in China around the 2nd century BC. Chess reached Europe and Russia around the 10th century. What we do know is that today Chess Games are held any where, in homes, at clubs, online and by mail either for recreation or in a competition or tournament. The most important aim of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king!

Most chess players, who evolved into masters, became students at an early age. World chess champion Jose Capablanca began to play chess at the age of four after watching his father, Anatoly Karpov was taught the moves of chess also at four years old and then went on to become a grandmaster and world champion, and Boris Spassky learned the strategies of the game at the age of five. International grandmaster is one of the highest titles you can receive, Judit Polgar achieved this at 15 years old and Bobby Fischer was awarded the title of international master at 14 years old. Of course chess isnt only for the very young; its popular with all ages. Gyorgy Negyesy who died in 1992, just before his 99th birthday, was the longest living master chess player.

Chess games can last hours or minutes depending on the skill of the players or even their fortune. It is unbelievable but there have been games which involved only 1 move, amazing! A famous game like this was held between Rogoff and Huber in 1972. But the longest game ever recorded was between Nikolic and Arsovic, held in Yugoslavia in 1989. This chess game involved 269 moves and took over 20 hours and no one won.

Not only men but women regularly win championships and claim world titles as well. Nona Gaprindashvili was the first woman to win a men’s chess tournament in 1977. Here she tied for first place and after this went on to achieve men’s international grandmaster status in 1978. Maia Chiburdanidze who was 17 years old was the youngest womens world champion of all when she won the women’s title in 1978. The first woman in history to qualify for the men’s world championship was Susan Polgar in the year 1986. Again is does not matter what age you are because Edith Price was 76 when she won the British ladies championship in 1946.

Not satisfied with a normal game of chess, some players like to set themselves a challenge and thats exactly what George Koltanowski did when he played 56 consecutive games in 1960. In 1977, Czechoslovakian Vlastimil Hort played 550 opponents, 201 of them simultaneously. He won all but 10 games in just over thirty hours. He won 50 and drew the other 6. He also played blindfolded! In 1997, Dimitrije Bjelica played 312 games simultaneously, winning 219, losing 1 and drawing 92. Not everyone is a winner of course as was proved when Austrian master Josef Krejcik played 25 games simultaneously in 1910 and lost every one.

Chess sets are not only simple and practical, many of them are beautifully hand crafted. A unique chess set was discovered in 1170. Carved from walrus tusks, each of the characters is shown in a bad mood, ranging from anger to depression. If you are looking for unique chess pieces, Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalis did an amazing job with a design that exchanged the traditional chessmen with fingers and thumbs made of silver based on his own digits.

Interested in the game of chess now? All you need to do is purchase yourself a basic chess set and you can start learning how to play chess today. Oh, and you will need a willing partner of course! Or if you already know how to play why not treat yourself and upgrade your chess board and chess pieces with a quality set?


Chess – Its Origins And Development

Chess is one of the world’s great board games. For centuries chess players around the world have been mesmerized by its challenges, and its great masters have been revered as superstars of a different order — superstars with brains.

** Origins and background of chess

Like many of our popular board games, such as checkers (draughts) and backgammon, chess originated sometime in the first millenium AD, somewhere along the Silk Road that ran between Europe, Egypt, India and the Orient. Most historians trace its origins back to northern India or Afganistan sometime around 600 AD.

As one might expect, there is a good deal of controversy among chess historians about both the date and place of the origin of chess. While some place its origins in China, the most common theory is that the version of chess we are familiar with evolved from a game played in northern India called ashtapada. This game used an 8×8 board (like ours), but had 4 players, and moves were determined by the throw of dice.

As some historians point out, the unique features of ashtapada, and its successor called chataranga, were deeply embedded in Indian culture of the time. The fact that it was a “four-handed” war game was consistent with the division of the country into many kingdoms. And the use of dice to determine moves was a reflection of the importance of Karma in Indian religious thought.

** Evolution into modern chess

The gradual appearance of different types of Indian military forces in the Indian board game known as chataranga — elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry — was consistent with the transition of the game from a relatively simple “race” game to that of a war game.

In a race game players do not capture or extinguish their opponents. If a player lands on the same square as an opponent, the opponent would simply have to go back to the beginning and start over.

But when the principle of capture or extinction was accepted — where the captured opponent’s piece is taken off the board — this involves a different game concept — a different “mind set”. And it was then just a matter of time before different types of military forces, with different powers and values would be introduced.

This transition from race game to war game is important. But perhaps the most significant evolutionary step — and the one most difficult to explain — was the elimination of the dice as the means of determining moves. As Yuri Averbakh, a Russian chess historian, points out, this was not something that would happen “naturally” within a pure Indian context.

As he says, “To change the Indian war game into chess it was necessary to throw away the dice. Unlike the previous stages which were typical for the evolutional way of the game’s development and were not contrary to the customs of the Indians and their religious beliefs, giving up dice was a radical, a revolutionary step forward that not only changed the game itself but also its philosophy. In fact, that step meant the withdrawal from the principle of Karma – the basic principle of the Indian philosophy. Now the result depended entirely on the players’ will, on their choice. They became complete masters of their destiny.”

According to Averbakh this would not have happened without the influence of Greece upon northern India. This influence stretched back to Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC and developed even further within what historians call the Indo-Greek Kingdom. This was a large area including much of Afganistan and northern India which was conquered by the Greco-Bactrian kind Demetrius in 180 BC.

This kingdom lasted for about 200 years in which time the region underwent a profound synthesis of Greek and Indian religion, culture, languages and symbols. As Wikipedia says, “The Indo-Greek kings seem to have achieved a level of cultural syncretism with no equivalent in history, the consequences of which are still felt today.”

The Greek influence was felt for hundreds of years after the demise of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. According to Averbakh it was this Greek influence that “helpd the Indians to make the final step for chess to appear.” In particular, he mentions that Greeks brought with them the war game petteia. Although it was a simpler game, it had two of the features that chess would eventually gain — players could “kill” each other, and there were no dice. “It was the player himself who decided where and which pieces should move. He had complete freedom of choice.”

** Chess in the Kushan Kingdom

Another writer goes even further in placing the origins of modern chess in the Afganistan/Northern India region, but places that development much earlier than 600 AD. Gerhard Josten, in his article “Chess – A Living Fossil” claims that modern chess is an amalgam of a number of different games. We know this, Josten claims, because of its completely unique feature of having three different types of characters:

1. A relatively immoble center piece — the King — the capture of which is the object of the game.
2. A number of pieces that can make varying long moves — moves that cover more than one space.
3. A number of pieces that can only make short moves — moves that cover only one space.

Josten claims these different pieces originated in different games, and were amalgamated in what we know as modern chess. He claims type 1 pieces originated in Chinese games, type 2 pieces originated in Mesopotamian divination rites — in particular, the Babylonian astrolabe, and type 3 pieces originated in Indian race games.

According to Josten, chess did not spring fully developed into existence in 600 AD but evolved over the first two or three centuries of the first millenium — in particular between 50 BC and 200 AD. This development took place in a number of places — India, China, and all along the Silk Road to Europe — and each of the areas would have influenced the others.

But the most likely place where it all came together was the Kushan Empire, the eventual successor to the old Indo-Greek Kingdom. This was the central Asian area encompassing much of northern India, Pakistan, and Afganistan.

As we saw with the Indo-Greek Empire, this area stood at the crossroads of Europe, India and the Orient, and was deeply influenced by Greek culture. Most importantly, the Kushans were cultural, religious and linguistic synergists. They took elements from various cultures and forged these elements into something new and different.

This, according to Josten, is exactly what happened to the game of chess in the early centuries of the first millenium. It is also why we have so few hard facts about this influential period. As he says,

“Following the gradual disintegration of the Kushan Empire, the neighbouring conquering states each claimed to be the intellectual authors of chess, with no mention of the losers of the battles, the Kushans…. The fall of the Kushan Empire may thus be the main reason why so many facts have been lost and so many unbelievable legends have arisen around the genesis of chess…”


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