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Chess around the world E-mail
Written by Yury Markushin   
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 22:10
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Krishna and Radha playing chaturanga on an 8x8 Ashtapada.The earliest precursor of modern chess is a game called Chaturanga, which flourished in India by the 6th century, and is the earliest known game to have two essential features found in all later chess variations - different pieces having different powers (which was not the case with Checkers and Go), and victory depended on the fate of one piece, the king of modern chess. Other game pieces, often known as "chess pieces," uncovered in archaeological findings are considered as coming from other, distantly related, board games, which may even have boards of 100 squares or more.

As early as the late 19th century, an idea originating mainly from the works of Captain Hiram Cox and Duncan Forbes indicated that a four handed game was the original form of chaturanga. Other scholars have concluded that a two handed version probably existed before the four handed one and evolved later into many other versions, including the four handed version of chaturanga.

In Sanskrit, "Chaturanga" literally means "having four limbs (or parts)" and in epic poetry often means army. The name itself comes from a battle formation mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata. Chaturanga was a battle simulation game which faithfully rendered Indian military strategy of the time. Initial gambling and dice aspects of the game - facing condemnation from both the Hindu and Muslim cultures - were removed as the game progressed and branched into newer games.

Ashtapada, the uncheckered 8×8 board - sometimes with special markers - served as the main board for playing Chaturanga. Other Indian boards included the 10×10 Dasapada and the 9×9 Saturankam.The Arab scholar Abu al-Hasan 'Ala al-Mas'ad? detailed the use of chess as a tool for military strategy, mathematics, gambling and even its vague association with astronomy in India and elsewhere. Mas'?d? notes that Ivory in India was chiefly used for the production of chess and backgammon pieces, and asserts that the game was introduced to Persia from India, along with the book Kelileh va Demneh, during the reign of emperor Nushirwan.
A notable evolution of chaturanga was Shatranj (or chatrang), a popular two-player variant which resembled chaturanga and could be won either by eliminating all of an opponent's pieces (except the king) or by capturing the king itself. The initial positions of the pawns and horses did not change, but there were some regional and temporal alterations for the other pieces.


Shams-e-Tabraza as portrayed in a 1500 painting in a page of a copy of Rumi's poem dedicated to Shams.The Karnamak-i Ardeshir-i Papakan, a Pahlavi epical treatise about the founder of the Sassanid Persian Empire, mentions the game of chatrang as one of the accomplishments of the legendary hero, Ardashir I, founder of the Empire. The oldest recorded game in chess history is a 10th century game played between a historian from Baghdad and a pupil.
In the 11th century Shahnameh, Ferdowsi describes a Raja visiting from India who re-enacts the past battles on the chessboard. A translation in English, based on the manuscripts in the British Museum, is given below:

One day an ambassador from the king of Hind arrived at the Persian court of Chosroes, and after an oriental exchange of courtesies, the ambassador produced rich presents from his sovereign and amongst them was an elaborate board with curiously carved pieces of ebony and ivory.

He then issues a challenge: "Oh great king, fetch your wise men and let them solve the mysteries of this game. If they succeed my master the king of Hind will pay tribute as an overlord, but if they fail it will be proof that the Persians are of lower intellect and we shall demand tribute from Iran."

The courtiers were shown the board, and after a day and a night in deep thought one of them, Buzurjmihir, solved the mystery and was richly rewarded by his delighted sovereign.
The appearance of the chess pieces had altered greatly since the times of chaturanga, with ornate pieces and chess pieces depicting animals giving way to abstract shapes. The Islamic sets of later centuries followed a pattern which assigned names and abstract shapes to the chess pieces as Islam forbids depiction of animals and human beings in art. These pieces were usually made of simple clay and carved stone.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 20 December 2009 12:50


0 #1 chessman 2011-02-12 01:07
Very interesting, thank you !
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