The history of chess goes back many years, decades and even centuries! But who really invented the game we all love? What was the origin of this famous mental exercise many millions of people play?Chess is known the world over, played by numerous fans, but its roots and origins are not clear and are highly debatable. There are a variety of legends, stories, and plain guesses, starting from a dispute over where it came from and ending with when chess began.
The origin of chess remains a matter of controversy. There is no credible evidence that chess existed in a form approaching the modern game before the 6th century CE. Game pieces found in Russia, China, India, Central Asia, Pakistan, and elsewhere that have been determined to be older than that are now regarded as coming from earlier distantly related board games, often involving dice and sometimes using playing boards of 100 or more squares.
One of those earlier games was a war game called chaturanga, a Sanskrit name for a battle formation mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata. Chaturanga was flourishing in northwestern India by the 7th century and is regarded as the earliest precursor of modern chess because it had two key features found in all later chess variants—different pieces had different powers (unlike checkers and go), and victory was based on one piece, the king of modern chess.
How chaturanga evolved is unclear. Some historians say chaturanga, perhaps played with dice on a 64-square board, gradually transformed into shatranj (or chatrang), a two-player game popular in northern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and southern parts of Central Asia after 600 CE. Shatranj resembled chaturanga but added a new piece, a firzān (counselor), which had nothing to do with any troop formation. A game of shatranj could be won either by eliminating all an opponent’s pieces (baring the king) or by ensuring the capture of the king. The initial positions of the pawns and knights have not changed, but there were considerable regional and temporal variations for the other pieces .
The game spread to the east, north, and west, taking on sharply different characteristics. In the East, carried by Buddhist pilgrims, Silk Road traders, and others, it was transformed into a game with inscribed disks that were often placed on the intersection of the lines of the board rather than within the squares. About 750 CE chess reached China, and by the 11th century it had come to Japan and Korea. Chinese chess, the most popular version of the Eastern game, has 9 files and 10 ranks as well as a boundary—the river, between the 5th and 6th ranks—that limits access to the enemy camp and makes the game slower than its Western cousin.
Standardization of rules
The modern rules and appearance of pieces evolved slowly, with widespread regional variation. By 1300, for example, the pawn had acquired the ability to move two squares on its first turn, rather than only one at a time as it did in shatranj. But this rule did not win general acceptance throughout Europe for more than 300 years.
Chess made its greatest progress after two crucial rule changes that became popular after 1475. Until then the counselor was limited to moving one square diagonally at a time. And, because a pawn that reached the eighth rank could become only a counselor, pawn promotion was a relatively minor factor in the course of a game. But under the new rules the counselor underwent a sex change and gained vastly increased mobility to become the most powerful piece on the board—the modern queen. This and the increased value of pawn promotion added a dynamic new element to chess. Also, the chaturanga piece called the elephant, which had been limited to a two-square diagonal jump in shatranj, became the bishop, more than doubling its range.
Until these changes occurred, checkmate was relatively rare, and more often a game was decided by baring the king. With the new queen and bishop powers, the trench warfare of medieval chess was replaced by a game in which checkmate could be delivered in as few as two moves.
The last two major changes in the rules—castling and the en passant capture—took longer to win acceptance. Both rules were known in the 15th century but had limited usage until the 18th century. Minor variations in other rules continued until the late 19th century; for example, it was not acceptable in many parts of Europe as late as the mid-19th century to promote a pawn to a queen if a player still had the original queen.
The 5 Best Benefits of Playing Chess
Chess develops the ability to see from someone else’s perspective
Skilled chess players learn to anticipate an opponent’s next moves. To predict what another person will do next, a player must develop the ability to adopt another person’s perspective and infer what action they are likely to take.
Behavioral scientists call this this ability to see from another viewpoint the “theory of mind.” It’s an ability that is essential to exercising empathy and building healthy social relationships.
Chess improves memory
It might not be surprising to learn that expert chess players have strong memory skills. After all, the game involves memorizing numerous combinations of moves and their potential outcomes.
It’s also interesting to note that experienced chess players show higher performance related to a particular kind of recollection: auditory memory. This is the ability to remember what you’ve learned through hearing.
In one experiment, researchersTrusted Source compared the recall ability of expert chess players to that of people with no chess-playing experience. They found that the chess players were significantly better at recalling lists of words they’d heard than people who had never played chess.
Skilled chess players also have a better than average ability to remember and quickly recognize visual patterns, which researchersTrusted Source think comes from memorizing complex chess positions.
Chess enables you to enter a flow state
Flow is a deeply rewarding sense of total involvement, in which you’re operating at a peak performance level in a challenging task. Athletes, artists, and performers often describe entering a kind of time warp, where they are so wholly focused on the task at hand that their awareness of anything beyond the performance seems to disappear.
ResearchersTrusted Source who study brain activity noted that theta waves are heightened in electroencephalograms (EEGs) taken when people are in a state of flow. Studies have shown the same high levels of theta waves in brain scans of experienced chess players during increasingly difficult chess matches.
Chess elevates your creativity
Researchers at a school in India tested the creative thinking skills of two groups of students. One group was trained in chess playing, and the other was not.
The tests asked students to come up with alternate uses for common items and to interpret patterns and meaning in abstract forms. Students who played chess scored higher on tests. Researchers concluded that chess increased the students’ ability to exercise divergent and creative thinking.
Chess can make therapy more effective
Some counselors and therapists play chess with clients as a means of increasing self-awareness and building more effective therapeutic relationships.
Considered a creative therapy strategy, chess allows you to see your reactions to stress and to challenges as they arise in the course of a match. Your therapist is present to help you evaluate your responses and learn more about why you respond to problems the way you do.