The History of Chess
The game of Chess in the form in which it is played to-day is usually assumed to be of a much older date than can be proved with certainty by documents in our possession. The earliest reference to the game is contained in a Persian romance written about 600 A.D., which ascribes the origin of Chess to India.
Manyof the European Chess terms used in the Middle Ages which can be traced back to the Indian language also tend to prove that India is the mother country of the game.
We are, therefore, fairly safe in assuming that Chess is about 1300 years old. Of course we could go farther, considering that the Indian Chess must have been gradually developed from simpler board games.
Indeed we know from a discovery in an Egyptian tombbuilt about 4000 B.C. that board games have been played as earlyas 6000 years ago; but we have no way of finding out their rules.
The game of Chess spread from India to Persia, Arabia and the other Moslem countries, and it was brought to Europe at the time of the Moorish invasion of Spain. It also reached the far East, and games similar to Chess still exist in Japan, China, Central and Northern Asia, the names and rules of which prove that they descended from the old Indian Chess.
In Europe Chess spread from Spain northward to France, Germany, England, Scandinavia and Iceland. It became known with extraordinary rapidity, although at first it was confined to the upper classes, the courts of the Kings and the nobility. In the course of time, when the dominance of the nobility declined and the inhabitants of the cities assumed the leading role in the life of people, the game of Chess spread to all classes of society and soon reached a popularity which no other game has ever equaled.
While in the early Middle Ages the game was played in Europe with the same rules as in the Orient, some innovations were introduced by the European players in the later Middle Ages which proved to be so great an improvement that within a hundred years they were generally adopted in all countries including the Orient.
Thereason for the changes was that in the old form of the game it took too long to get through the opening period. The new form, which dates from about 1500 A.D. and the characteristic feature of which is the enlarged power of Queen and Bishop, is our modern Chess, the rules of which are uniform throughout the civilized world.
In the Seventeenth Century Chess flourished mostly in Italy, which consequently produced the strongest players. Some of them traveled throughout Europe, challenging the best players of the other countries and for the most part emerging victorious.
Atthat time Chess was in high esteem, especially at the courts of the kings who followed the example of Philip the Second of Spain in honoring the traveling masters and rewarding them liberally for their exhibition matches.