History of Chess – Who Invented Chess (Hidden Facts)

Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on a checkered board with 64 alternating color squares arranged in an 8×8 grid.

Today, around 600+ million people play chess across the globe. Chess has deeply touched & enlightened the lives of many people. But

Do you know about the history of chess? 

The Chess we enjoy today wasn’t even known until the 16th century. It wasn’t even called chess back then… The rules were a lot different, the pieces had lower capabilities.

Heck, a single game of chess was completed in weeks (sometimes months) as there were no chess clocks & with the traditional rules, it was really hard to checkmate the king! 

Chess has the most fascinating and magnificent history! I am sure you’re gonna love it.

Disclaimer - The origin of chess has been a puzzle in itself for centuries. So, today we will try to explore chess from common grounds and what is commonly believed...

Let’s begin! 


History Of Chess


The history of chess is as interesting as the game itself!

Chess had its roots way back in the 6th century AD (1500 years ago) It was originated in northern India during The Gupta Empire where it was known as 'chaturaṅga'

The name 'chaturaṅga' is inspired by the four branches of the army:

Chatur - four | Anga - divisions

The four divisions being infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry, represented by the chess pieces - pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively.

After India, chess quickly spread to Persia where it was known as Chatrang. 

When Arabs, conquered Persia during the 7th century, the Muslims popularized chess by the name of ‘shatranj’ (which some people still call & remember chess by)

Fun Fact: Chatrang was renamed as Shatranj in Arab Muslims due to their lack of “ch” and ”ng” native voice. 


In Persia, the king was called as ‘shāh’ that’s why players started to say ‘shāh’ when they attacked their opponent’s king and ‘Shāh māt’ when the opponent’s king couldn’t escape from the check! Today, these terms are evolved to check & checkmate respectively!

In the 9th century, chess made its way to Europe as a result of the Arab expansion where chess experienced its initial growth!

NOW, it’s time to learn about the evolution of chess -


Evolution to The Romantic Era


During the late 15th century, a new style of playing chess - Romantic Chess became popular, the period is known as “the romantic era of chess” up to the 1880s. 

Chess Games played in this era, were focused more on quick, tactical maneuvers & sacrifices rather than long-term strategic planning!

The biggest changes in chess were introduced in the middle of the 14th and 15th century -

  • Queen became the most powerful piece (The Mad Queen)
  • Castling was introduced to keep the kings’ safe
  • Pawn got superpowers: First move to 2 squares, En Passant & Pawn Promotion

Moving forward… 

Chess Clocks was introduced to the world in 1883. 

In 1886, the first official world championship was hosted, where Wilhelm Steinitz became the first official world chess champion by defeating Johannes Zukertort.

first-world-champion-wilhelm-steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz is also known as “The Father Of Modern Chess” 

He introduced a more positional style of chess, focusing on pawn structure, active bishop pair & the knight outposts plus more…

His dedication & valuable contributions inspired the world to come forward and experience the magic of chess! 


The Modern Era


The Modern Era revolutionized the world of chess! Many amazing inventions were introduced like - chess engines, databases & more…

modern-chess

First things first, chess was growing exponentially, an international organization was needed to be established. So, 

FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) was formed on July 20, 1924, to act as the governing body for the organization of chess and conduct world chess championships!

Next, machines are here to win:

On 10 Feb 1996, Deep Blue developed by IBM, shocked the world by defeating the reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov under standard chess tournament time controls.

deep-blue-defeated-world-chess-champion

It was a breathtaking moment for all chess fans. 

Since then, many powerful chess engines like Stockfish & Fritz are launched publicly for the welfare of chess! Chess Databases also started gaining popularity among players!

The 21st century emerged with new technologies in chess, like - SquareOffNow, online chess websites, app & more...

Today, chess has reached an amazing level, you can play chess online, challenge the computers, analyze your games & positions, and whatnot. 

It’s so fascinating, how an ancient game not only survived but has also become the most popular board game in the world!

Though becoming immensely popular, it’s a shame that very few people know how chess was invented? AND, who invented chess?


Invention Of Chess


There is a very interesting story behind the invention of chess:

Once upon a time, in northern India, there was a tyrannical Indian king, Shahram! Shahram was fond of playing new games. He used to spend most of his free time engaging in playing interesting games. But,

Very soon, he realized that he had started getting bored playing the same games every day. So, he tried all the games that were present at that time.

But, he didn’t find any game interesting enough to play for long.

So, he ordered his ministry to find him a new game which should be highly challenging, interesting and rewarding that nobody can’t get enough out of it!

A public announcement was made & soon many games were presented in front of the King. It took several weeks and a lot of rejections, until one day a wise mathematician finally presented Chaturaṅga in front of the King.
how-chess-was-invented

The wise man explained to his king - “The game of chaturaṅga is the battle between 2 armies, each lead by a King who commands their army to defeat the other king”

He further explained, “The Game of Chaturaṅga represents the battle between 2 kingdoms consisting the King, Queen and 4 branches of the army - Rook, Knight, Bishop, and pawns. AND, just like real life, the KING alone can’t win the battle all by himself.”

The king loved the game very much. He also realized that his queen, army & people are equally important to rule the kingdom safely and happily! 

Shahram got too impressed and offered the mathematician, all the gold and silver he wanted, from the treasure! But, the wise mathematician surprisingly refused the offer, and said - 

“I certainly do not want anything from your treasure. I am a small man, if you can please give me a grain of wheat on the first square of the Ashtapada (now, chessboard) and then double it off on the second square and double the grains on second to third and so on up to the 64th square.”

Total grains of wheat on the first square = 1

On second square = 2

On the third square = 4

grains-of-wheat-on-a-chessboard

And so, on….

At first, The King felt highly offended by this act but then he ordered his servants to fulfil the wise man’s wish. The servants started doing calculations...

Later the servants came in and conveyed that such an enormous amount of wheat didn’t exist!

As shocking as it may sound, here are the numbers:

Total Grains of wheat on the 64th square = 9,223,372,036,854,775,808

The whole chessboard contains = 18,446,744,073,709,551,615

The tyrannical king, Shahram laughed and appreciated the wise mathematician again to taught him another great lesson -

“Just like the pawns in chess, you should never underestimate the small things in life”

From here, the journey of chess started! 


Conclusion (Chaturaṅga to Chess)

Chess has changed a lot since it was invented!

From it's ancient origins, chess has evolved into a strategic game (with deep lessons inside) which today appeals to modern players of all cultures and ages.

If you are new to chess, start learning chess today!

What are your favorite moments in the history of chess?

Let us know in the comment section.

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