Chess is a board game filled with a rich history that is both competitive and educational. Universally enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, its main objective is to “checkmate” your opponent, trapping their King piece, so you win the game.
Each chessboard has 64 coloured squares and two sets of 16 chess pieces
Read on to see why iTHINK considers chess to be the ultimate strategic game.
Although the history of chess and its inception is subject to debate, the earliest version is believed to have emerged in India in 550 A.D. This was known as chaturanga (Sanskrit for “four limbs”) which referred to the four divisions of an army from the Gupta Empire: infantry, chariot, elephants and cavalry.
Chaturanga consisted of an 8×8 square board with mysterious markings and was played with dice.
The game later travelled to Persia in 600 A.D, where it evolved into the chatrang. In fact, the term chess is derived from the Persian ruling title “shah”, while the winning phrase “checkmate” is translated from “shah met”, meaning “the king is dead”.
Chatrang was soon adopted by the Islamic world after the Muslim conquest of Persia and was dubbed as “shatranj”, before spreading to Europe in either the 9th or 10th century.
Further changes were made to the board game as it entered European society, becoming an early variant of the modern-day chess we know today.
Movement of pieces was initially limited, and players were frustrated with the length of time it took to complete a game, so new rules were implemented. For example, the Queen was previously only able to move one diagonal square per turn, but was now the strongest piece in the game.
Special moves such as en passant and castling were also introduced, these modified rules became established in modern chess by the 16th century.
Chess was made widely available to the general public in the 19th century. Its popularity had led to competitive matches becoming increasingly common, with the first-ever chess tournament being held in London in 1851.
Chess has been referred to as The Royal Game due to its links to the monarchy.
Throughout the centuries, there have been several allusions to members of royal families and the aristocracy playing the game. Some with very unusual tales attached to them.
Early records show that Cnut the Great may have been the first King of England to play the game.
In 1027, he had ordered the assassination of his brother-in-law, Ulf the Earl, after an explosive argument, where he accused the Earl of cheating during a match. The Earl was murdered the following day in a Cathedral, by one of the King’s housecarls.
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, supposedly entertained his court by using 32 virgins as living chess pieces. The victor would take the 32 virgins as their prize.
Another disturbing example of chess-playing was the rumour that King Muley Hassan of Morocco used prisoners as pieces in his living version of the game. Once these “pieces” were captured, they were immediately beheaded.
World tournaments were introduced in the 1800s, which proved to be pivotal for the world of chess.
As previously mentioned, the 1851 London chess tournament was the first international game. Organised by chess-master Howard Staunton, the game was played in single-elimination matches, with best of three sets in each first-round.
Adolf Anderssen, a German maths professor, defeated Staunton in the third-round semi-final with a 4-1 score, and won the overall tournament. This victory contributed to Anderssen’s status as one of the most successful players of the 1800s.
The first ever Official World Championship took place in the US in 1886. These matches occurred in three cities: five in New York, four in St. Louis and eleven in New Orleans.
This was a tense battle of wits between world-class players William Steinitz and J. H. Zukertort, with a stake of two thousand dollars a-side.
Despite losing four games in a row, Steinitz’s determination helped him to defeat Zukertort, with a final score of ten wins to his competitor’s five.
An article extract covering the game mentions: “[S]eeing that his opponent finally preserved the advantage of Queen against Rook with an irresistible attack, Zukertort resigned on the 46th move, the game having lasted 5 hours and 15 minutes.”
Steinitz earned the title of World Champion, revolutionising the game of chess with his powerful strategic style.
The title of World Champion is the highest accolade that participants in chess tournaments can accomplish.
In 1948, FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) was established as an organisation that oversees worldwide chess competitions. Prior to this, matches were planned privately by contenders.
Magnus Carlsen of Denmark is the current titleholder, having won eight consecutive tournaments as of 2019.
This year’s FIDE World Cup is being held from 9 September to 4 October in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. There are 128 players from 47 countries and has a prize fund of $1.6 million distributed between competitors – $110,000 for the winner and $6,000 for first-round losers.
Finalists will qualify for 2020’s World Championship Candidates that decides who will challenge Magnus Carlsen for his title.
Plenty of websites have live-updates of the event available to stream, including Twitch, Chess.com and the official FIDE World Cup page.
Contemporary chess pieces have had their recognisable design since 1849. Before this, the chess set had been subject to several alterations throughout the ages.
The 6th-century Indian chaturanga pieces were made to represent an army, these were known as piyade (pawn), fil (Bishop), rukh (Rook), wazir (Counselor), asp (Knight), and shah (King).
Once the game achieved popularity in Europe, these were changed to symbolise members of the royal court.
The oldest European pieces were supposedly conceived in Italy. Discovered in a Roman Tomb in 1932, the figurines had been crafted from bone with ivory topping and were dated from 940 AD.
There has been some controversy surrounding this discovery; sceptics have questioned how these Arabic style chessmen ended up in a grave from the Roman Age.
From 1849, the Staunton chess set became the standardised style and is used for tournaments today.
Named after Chessmaster Howard Staunton, each piece had its distinctive characteristics that players could familiarise themselves with, e.g. the Knight was represented by a horse’s head, the Queen had a coronet, and so forth.
The Staunton set was appealing to the public due to its unique, decorative design and affordability, leading to its dominance in the chess market by the late 19th century.
Having a definitive set became necessary for players from different cultures so they could distinguish each piece, making it easier to compete.
Chess works as an educational tool in schools due to its ability to enhance students’ critical thinking.
Since 2011, chess has been a compulsory subject in Armenian schools.
The game has become widely accepted as a classroom activity. With nine out of ten schools encouraging pupils to play, introducing chess to the curriculum can help increase a child’s self-esteem and reasoned judgement.
There is also a possibility of a connection between maths and chess.
A 1992 study in New Brunswick, Canada showed that a mathematics syllabus that involved teaching logic through chess had improved children’s problem-solving skills. The average score of students in the province had been raised from 62% to 81%.
The quick-thinking approach needed for chess games can help to improve your problem-solving skills and ignite your creativity.
Chess enables you to put your mental calculation to the test, so you can plan effective strategies and memorise useful chess combinations.
Research from the Department of Neuroradiology at Tübingen University discovered that expert players used both sides of the brain to determine their next move.
The left, analytical half was used to focus on relevant aspects of the task, while the right side would help visually identify movement patterns.
The cognitive benefits don’t end there, as some studies show that this type of brain workout helps boost children’s IQ.
One study carried out in Venezuela found “that children who took chess classes for 4 ½ months have increased their IQ points.”
If you’re looking for a fun distraction while on your mindless daily commute, apps such as Chess, DroidFish and LearnChess are great for sharpening the brain!
It is not surprising that chess has maintained its significance in the gaming world, given its 1500 year history.
A high percentage of adults from all over the globe currently play chess: 70% in India, 43% in Russia, 23% in Germany, and 12% in the UK.
The surge of chess enthusiasts in India over the last 15 years has been attributed to both its growing economy and the current grandmaster, Vishwanathan Anand.
Anand currently ranks at No.6 worldwide and is the first Indian to achieve the highest rank awarded by the World Chess Federation. His success in tournaments has influenced a wave of up-and-comers in the world chess scene.
Chess universally appeals to the masses as a form of entertainment and mental stimulation. It challenges an individual’s intellect while they practise their decision-making skills, trying out different tricks to see their various outcomes, adding a sense of unpredictability to the game.
Playing chess promotes social integration as people can engage with one another through a shared passion.
Technology has helped this gaming community to expand, so you have the opportunity to compete with players from all over the world.
There is also the matter of convenience. If you’re looking for some friendly competition, you can easily partake in chess from the comfort of your own home. This kind of bonding is an enriching experience for both adults and children.
To maintain enthusiasm for the game, many schools run chess clubs that offer pupils a way to understand strategic techniques and develop social dexterity.
While acting as a form of social activity, chess can also be incredibly calming for players.
Some psychiatrists incorporate the game into their psychotherapy sessions to build rapport with their clients. Chess therapy requires active participation, so the patient can constructively rearrange their thought patterns and use the game as an outlet for their impulsive behaviours.
There has been evidence that this type of therapy has had positive effects on patients suffering from mental health issues such as ADHD, panic disorders and depression.
In his report Chess Therapy: A New Approach to Curing Panic Attack, Kazem Barzeger noted: “Chess therapy with the right level of difficulty can be recommended as a very effective non-pharmaceutical method for the successful treatment of panic attacks.”
Exploring the world of chess has been a fascinating journey. It is not surprising to see how its evolution throughout time has impacted modern-day gaming. We hope you have found this list to be informative!
Hey! I’m Sophie, a Crime and Games Writer for INTROVERT. I graduated with a degree in English Literature and Film and Screen Studies. I love to read, play video games and watch “so bad they’re good” films.
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