Chess: Check Out the History, Mate

Chess has been around for centuries. Early variants of chess games originated in India around the 6th century and chess gradually evolved into its current form in the 15th century. Somewhat fittingly for a game that was considered to evoke military tactics and use pieces named after the nobility, two of the reasons that chess spread across the globe was as a result of the expansion of historical empires and the introduction of the game into the courts of the nobility.

India introduced the game of chess into Persia and the game became a popular means of educating the Persian nobility in the concepts of logical thought and patience. The word, ‘checkmate’, comes from the Persian phrase, ‘Shāh Māt’, which translates into English as, ‘The King is dead’.

Unfortunately for the Persians, they perhaps spent a little too much time playing chess and not enough time developing their actual military as between 644 and 651 AD the Islamic Conquest of Persia passed the land of Persia and the game of chess, into the hands of the Muslim world.

By the 10th century the expanding Arabian empire had introduced chess to parts of North Africa, Europe and Iberia. Conquering armies played the game during their down time and continued to introduce the game into their captured territories.

Into The Contemporary

Chess has been recognized as an important educational tool that can help in the development of reasoning and forward thinking. In fact a bill has been passed in the US senate that seeks to introduce chess more widely into US educational programs as a means with which to act as a supplement to learning. The legally recognized bill noted that:

  • “Chess increases strategic thinking skills, stimulates intellectual creativity and improves problem solving ability, whilst raising self-esteem.”
  • “When youngsters play chess they must call upon higher-order thinking skills, analyse actions and consequences and visualize future possibilities.”
  • “In countries where chess is offered widely in schools, students exhibit excellence in the ability to recognize complex patterns and consequently excel in math and science.”
  • “Instruction in chess during the second grade will enable pupils to learn skills which will serve them throughout their lives.”

In addition to these officially recognized benefits of the instruction of chess, several psychologists have underlined how chess can aid a person’s ability to concentrate on one specific activity uninterrupted for a prolonged period of time and have recommended chess games as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

The fact that a game of chess demands the complete focusing of the mind for the duration of the game has led psychologists to underline its usage as a means with which to developed concentration. In fact, it is hard to think of any other pastime which demands one’s continual attention to the extent that a game of chess does.

Around six hundred million people across the world currently know how to play chess and chess games have become increasingly competitive as a result of the rise of on-line chess forums; where chess fans gather together to create leagues and exchange tactics and plays.

Chess: Some Interesting Facts

  • The word ‘rookie’ is derived from the chess piece known as ‘the rook’. When playing a game of chess the rook is generally the last piece to be moved into the field of play. As such, the phrase ‘rookie’ was adopted by several American sports commentators to describe the circumstance of an unseasoned sportsman being brought into a game long after it had commenced. In terms of a Premiership football equivalent this would denote a situation in which a young player’s confidence is built-up via introducing him into the game as a substitute during the second half.
  • Despite the names of pieces such as king, queen, bishop and soldiers none of the actual chess pieces in chess games look much like their description. This is due to the fact that the Islamic world, who introduced chess to a wider audience, forbids the making of statues of animals and people. Hence the reason why the pieces aren’t clearly distinguished designs of the people that they represent.
  • In the 12th century the church deemed chess to be a frivolous activity and so banned it. Bishop Guy of Paris threatened to excommunicate any priest caught playing chess. In 1125 one chess-loving priest subsequently invented the folding chess board so as to be able disguise the board as two books and continued to play in secret.
  • In other languages the pawn is not a foot soldier; in German the pawn is known a peasant and in Spain the pawn is known as a farmer.

Chess games remain as popular today as they have been throughout history and can help you to develop reasoning and concentration skills. In addition to these benefits it is also incredibly rewarding when you put an opponent into check mate and watch as they slowly realize that they are utterly done for.