Origin Of Chess?

Quetzelcoatl

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#1
Chess. Reading about 18th Century automaton the Mechanical Turk has resparked my interest in chess (and if you know the secret of the Turk, pray keep it to yourself for the nonce. I am half way through the book and thoroughly enjoying it)

I played chess briefly as a 14 year old, but the discovery of girls, drugs, car theft and causing general mayhem eclipsed it as a pastime.

I may take it up again. But what chiefly interests me are the origins of Chess.

I have it coming from Persia in the 1600’s and sweeping Europe. Is it originally Chinese? If so, how come China doesn’t turn out Grand Masters today?

And how come the terminology (Bishops, Castles, Knights, Kings, Queens) is European rather than Eastern?
 
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Anonymous

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#2
Well, the version we play is Persian. The reason there are Bishops is because the Church was horrified by the idea of a game that represented such an important affair of state as war but omitted the clergy. So they replaced the Persians' warship pieces with Bishops. This is why the Bishop moves diagonally; this was originally to represent a ship tacking into the wind.
The other pieces represent things that would have been common to both Christian and Arab cultures (a bit unsure about the Queen); infantry, cavalry, fortifications and the King.
Where it comes from before that, I don't know.
 

butterfly27

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#3
IIRC the knights were originally elephants.

EDIT: I was wrong. There were elephants as well as horses.

click here for more info relating to the history of Japanese, Chinese and Burmese chess.
 

Breakfastologist

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#4
It has certainly been played in Europe a long time before 1600 - the Viking chess set found on the isle of Lewis is 12th century and I'm sure it was widely played before that.
 

Quetzelcoatl

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#6
thanks for that lot

my gut instinct says China, simply because of the wealth of philosophical thought devoted to the art of war eminating from China, and the origins of GO, another war strategy game

I now know the game is older than I thought

the Mechanical Turk is a fascinating book devoted to a mechanical / magic trick that was beating Grand Masters two centuries before we developed a computer that could do this.

shouldnt have posted this lot till I'd finished the book really
 
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Anonymous

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#7
I became quite interested in chess a few years ago, but it soon became obvious that I had absolutely no talent, so I more or less gave up. After all, there's no point in playing if everyone you know can beat you in twenty moves. :(
Anyhow, I remember reading somewhere that 'checkmate' comes from the arabic (or persian?) shah mata - The king is dead.
Also there is a version played in China and (I think) Korea which uses different pieces - including an elephant which replaces the bishop. The board is larger as well IIRC.
I think this is probably a relativley modern variant from the standard western game rather than a precursor of it.
 

Quetzelcoatl

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#8
AndyX said:
Anyhow, I remember reading somewhere that 'checkmate' comes from the arabic (or persian?) shah mata - The king is dead
this has just reminded me of a story I read about an English barber / surgeon who travelled to Persia in the 11th Century disguised as a Jew to study medicine (at I think Mashad?) and ended up being appinted to the Shahs court. Chess was called The Shahs Game and was very popular.

if it did originate in China, then it would have come down the Silk Road and have appealed to the educated warriors of the Persian Court?
 

escargot

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#9
The Levantine Chess Set

Chess sets

I saw this in Manchester. It's huge and fantastic.
It features Madonna, complete with pointy bra!
No pictures here unfortunately.

The Levantine Chess Set
"The chances are that you will never have heard of this one but I include it because it is one of the few modern examples of a hand crafted chess set with unique figures and a "deeper meaning" (!). Its forces are supposed to represent in a balanced way the present day conflict between Muslims and Isrealis. Each figure dipicts a specific cultural or historical steriotype. The board too has depth, containing elements of memorial, tiled tomb and commemorative mosaic. The Muslim forces include an Iraqi tank soldier, a suicide car bomber, and an Egyptian Mummy terrorist. The western/Israeli forces on the other hand include an American tourist, a Biggles airman, and a cruicified sheep (!!). The board itself even has a series of names inscribed upon it as if to suggest a cenotaph. Although this particular set is of little value to a chess player who is used to having all his pawns the same shape it does serve as a powerful symbol of the tensions and millitary conflicts which exist in our world. "
 
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Anonymous

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#10
The origins of chess are debatable but India must get a mention here. One definite possibility is of the game originating there in around 600 A.D. See this site
As for China not turning out chess grandmasters - well, they do. (this site also covers Chinese chess).
I belonged to a chess club and wasn't bad at one time- about 120 BCF. I used to spend hours studying the game. My only claim to fame was that I almost beat an IM in a simul! I made a stupid move and lost. For non-chess players, an IM is an International Master, and a "simul" is a simultaneous display (strong player playing maybe 25 people at once). I have also played a grandmaster.
Chess is one of those games where there are so many levels. Just when you have beaten a couple of people and your confidence is sky-high, you go and lose to a snotty-nosed 10-year-old who is reading a computer magazine between moves! It's so ruddy annoying! :headbutt: I've got quite a good chess computer, which is a Novag, but I don't play so much these days.
Chess players are so much stronger than they used to be. To be a grandmaster, you first have to be a really strong club player, and then study 6 hours a day for two years on average to get a GM norm.

Big Bill Robinson
 

MrRING

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#11
Does anybody else remember a fantasy/medieval combat book that was based on the moves of a classic chess battle, where each chapter ends (or begins, not sure of the order) with a description of the chess move that the story is based on?

It's called something like "Emperor of the Night" or "Queen of the Night" or something like that, but I can't find an Amazon listing. Maybe somebody will remember it from the description.
 
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Anonymous

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#12
Originally posted by Big Bill Robins To be a grandmaster, you first have to be a really strong club player, and then study 6 hours a day for two years on average to get a GM norm.
Bugger that then :D

It's an odd thing; I can remember a few people at school who were very talented chess players. Some of them were also brilliant academicaly - particuarly in maths - but then again a lot of them weren't. I know a bloke in my local who can beat everyone hollow at chess and he can barely count to twenty.
Maybe chess is like music in that some people have a natural talent which seems to come out of nowhere.

Now I think about it, all the chess players I've met have been male - I can't recollect any women international masters or whatever. Is it possible that chess somehow doesn't appeal to women? Maybe they've got better things to do with their time :confused:
 
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Anonymous

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#13
Alice through the Looking Glass is based around a game of chess, although whether it is a bona-fide game I wot not.
Link about Alice and Chess

Quote from this link
Why Does The White Moves Several Times In A Row ?
The fact that one side is doing several moves in a row brings to mind another great English Mathematician: Alan Turing. The story goes that Turing used to play "running chess" with his friend: Once you do a move, you go run around the house, if the other didn't move until you return, you play again...

-----------------------------
my hero!
 

lopaka

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#14
Originally posted by AndyX


Now I think about it, all the chess players I've met have been male - I can't recollect any women international masters or whatever. Is it possible that chess somehow doesn't appeal to women? Maybe they've got better things to do with their time :confused:
It's true there are a lot more men than women, but the three Polgar sisters (Hungarian), Zsuza, Judit and Sofia have all achieved IM status, with Judit actually being ranked in the world top-ten at one point, I think.

And the patron saint of chess players is St. Theresa of Avila who has a chapter in The Way of Perfection
relating to the development of the pieces to the development of our faculty for divine love.

However given her propensity for involuntary levitation, she'd be a rather distracting opponent!:D
 

lopaka

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#15
Big Bill Robins said:
For non-chess players, an IM is an International Master, and a "simul" is a simultaneous display (strong player playing maybe 25 people at once).

I agree, players are a lot stronger than they used to be, in no small part due to the advent of computers IMHO. I still think a decent case can be made for the great American player Harry N. Pillsbury (late 19th century) as the most remarkable simul player ever.

He would play up to 22 simultaneous games of chess and checkers (draughts) blindfolded (!) while taking part in a game of whist.

Before the display he would ask the audience for lists of words or objects and repeat them at the end of the display. On one famous occasion in London two professors came up with the following curious list of words:

Antiphlogistine periosteum takadiatase plasmon ambrosia Threlkeld streptococcus staphylococcus micrococcus plasmodium Mississippi Freiheit
Philadelphia Cincinnati athletics
no war Etchenberg American Russian
philosophy Piet Potgelter's Rost Salamagundi Oomisellecootsi Bangmanvate Schlechter's Nek Manzinyama theosophy catechism Madjesoomalops

Pillsbury looked at the list, repeated the words, and then again in reverse order. The next day he recited them again. Wow! This would seem to be above/below what we normally think of as "talent" and into freak-of-nature territory.

Chess is one of those games where there are so many levels.

Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink, and an elephant may bathe.-Indian proverb.

Most of the above was culled from the wonderfull, if sadly out-of-print *The Complete Chess Addict*. (Fox and James, Faber & Faber pubs.)

Big Bill Robinson
 
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Anonymous

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#16
AndyX said:
It's an odd thing; I can remember a few people at school who were very talented chess players. Some of them were also brilliant academicaly - particuarly in maths - but then again a lot of them weren't. I know a bloke in my local who can beat everyone hollow at chess and he can barely count to twenty.
Maybe chess is like music in that some people have a natural talent which seems to come out of nowhere.

Now I think about it, all the chess players I've met have been male - I can't recollect any women international masters or whatever. Is it possible that chess somehow doesn't appeal to women? Maybe they've got better things to do with their time :confused:
Yeah, I think that's quite right. Good post. Chess is a thing you can work at, but some people just seem to be natural, even if they have a low IQ. There was a good book called The Grass Arena, where a guy called John Healy, who iirc was an alcohol addict and a tramp, became a superb chess player, beating everyone in a posh chess club to win the in-house trophy. But because of his low status, they refused to give it to him.
Some women have made it to the top in chess - lopaka correctly mentions the Polgar sisters - but men seem to be better. It has been suggested that human males have better spatial perception than females. I wonder why that should be? Quite Fortean really. However, if true it would definitely help with chess.

Bill.
 
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Anonymous

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#18
Big Bill Robins said:
Chess is a thing you can work at, but some people just seem to be natural, even if they have a low IQ. There was a good book called The Grass Arena, where a guy called John Healy, who iirc was an alcohol addict and a tramp, became a superb chess player, beating everyone in a posh chess club to win the in-house trophy. But because of his low status, they refused to give it to him.
The rotten bastards :mad:

This may be going a bit off-topic (maybe there's a more appropriate thread elsewhere).
I find this kind of thing - the question of where 'genius' comes from - fascinating, and definately within the realm of Forteana.
I suppose spatial awareness is important in Chess, but I suspect the really good players are visualising the game on a more abstract level. The best analogy I can think of is myself trying to play from sheet music. Whereas I have to plod through going ' um, OK er, that's an A#, and then that's a F....' a 'proper' musician can just read a score like I would read a book and hear the music in their heads whilst reproducing it through an instrument. My dad, who is a proper musician can do this, but nobody else in our family can. Many classical composers came from totally un-musical families and yet came hardwired from birth with talents that seem almost supernatual. How could Mozart at the age of eight write music which resonates with adults' emotions as though he was somehow reading our minds???
It's a 'well-known-fact' that musical talent and ability in games such as chess go hand-in-hand with a flair for mathematics and geometry. However we know it ain't necessarly so. To use my father as an example again, here is a natural musician who is about as crap at maths as I am. People assume I'm a maths wizz because I'm work with computers and can do a bit of programming. It still takes me a lot of effort to work out if I've been given the right change...
I think the mystery of where a chess grandmaster's mind comes from is what interested me in the game. There used to be a lot of stories about high-ranking players who had gone completely apeshit bonkers - not just from the pressure of being at the top of a very competitive profession, but more from the huge mental effort of playing at that level.

I loved the Fast Show sketch with the lonely old guy who used to go on about Frank Sinatra to people in pubs:

You in the old chess game are you? That's the hardest game in the world, that is, the old chess game. Yeah, grand-master I was. Thirty years I done it, man and boy. It's hard, innit? You know, the old mental strain. Thinkin' all them moves ahead - I used to think games ahead.
I had to give it up in the end though. I became mentally ill.....


Or something like that.
 

Bilderberger

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#19
Big Bill Robins said:
Some women have made it to the top in chess - lopaka correctly mentions the Polgar sisters - but men seem to be better. It has been suggested that human males have better spatial perception than females. I wonder why that should be? Quite Fortean really. However, if true it would definitely help with chess.

Bill.
It is often suggested that the relative success of males at the less physcial sports (snooker, darts, chess etc) relates to a heightened level of obsession found in males.

Obviously, this is a huge stereotype - but, to be world class in any of those "sports" a person needs to spend hours and hours over and over again practising the same thing. If the obsessional nature required is to be found more frequently in males - it would explain their relative success.

Following on from Andy X's post - I find it interesting that so many "genius" people suffer from mental health problems or a lack of social ability. Cause or effect? That is the question.......

Is it that the brain wiring necessary for genius by-passes functions of a social and sanity nature?

Does the genius ability lead the individual to feel little empathy in the world - thus causing withdrawl and/or unusual behaviour?

Does the dedication required to reach a genius level also require a certain madness/obsession such that only obsessives can become genius?

Or, finally, various combinations of the above?
 

Quetzelcoatl

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#20
Genius vs Erudition?

there seems to be the 'born hardwired' type of genius who has astounding natural ability, and the Erudite Genius who started talented and worked on it, often obsessionally?

where does the Dustin Hoffman character in Rainman fit into the picture? Th e'Idiot Savant' who is a genius in a very narrow field but a child in all others?

and do the Japanese turn out Genuises (or Grand Masters?)

the Japanese have never in their history INVENTED anything.

their genius, if thats what it is, lies in IMPROVING.

the Tea Ceremony they took from China and refined, the motorcycle, car stereo, mobile, etc etc.

none of them invented, simply vastly improved. Is their gift genius or erudition?
 
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Anonymous

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#21
Bilderberger said:
Following on from Andy X's post - I find it interesting that so many "genius" people suffer from mental health problems or a lack of social ability. Cause or effect? That is the question.......
Wooble. :gaga:
 

Bilderberger

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#23
ethelred said:
the Japanese have never in their history INVENTED anything.

their genius, if thats what it is, lies in IMPROVING.

the Tea Ceremony they took from China and refined, the motorcycle, car stereo, mobile, etc etc.

none of them invented, simply vastly improved. Is their gift genius or erudition?
A little unfair - what about the Karaoke? The dance mat?

Their contribution to society is unmeasurable.

Seriously though, the Japanese have a recent culture of all manner of useless inventions and are at the fore-front of designer toilets (although I suspect you would categorize that as an "improvement" rather than an invention).
 

Quetzelcoatl

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#24
Bilderberger said:
Their contribution to society is unmeasurable.
TV game shows where hysterical loons lock other hysterical loons into glass cases full of scorpions? Pure genius. :p

but I cant agree on the 'recent civilisation' bit. Japan has been civilised almost as long as China.

and has never invented anything.

Samuri sword? Twisted metal forging was invented in China. Refined in Japan.

Bamboo armour? Same thing

the Japanese are superlative IMPROVERS but have never had a true original idea in, how many centuries history?

so can they be called geniuses? Or are they simply erudite?

for me, a genius is someone who makes that fantastic mental advance that moves the agenda on by a quantum leap.

and by that definition, the Japanese dont qualify
 
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Anonymous

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#25
The Scots, on the other hand, invent new things all the time...and more of them per head of population than any other country.
Just thought I'd mention it.
 

Quetzelcoatl

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#26
The Krankies was the embodyment of genius

and the Monarch of the Glens biscuit tin is up there with Rubens
 

Bilderberger

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#27
As an example of Japan's current cultural inventions - I invite you to watch the slide show at the following address (you will need powerpoint). Just click on the screen to scroll through some of the greatest inventions ever - and all 100% Japanese.

http://www.hof-carmel.org.il/pnay/japaneseinventions.ppt

p.s. Have checked my local Waterstones - The Mechanical Turk is in stock for the 2 for 3 offer. Now just have to decide on the other two books after work and I shall give it a go.
 
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Anonymous

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#28
I was thinking more of things like television, electric lighting (Thomas who?) and the pneumatic tyre, actually.
 
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