Chess has a history possibly going back over 4 Millenia. Chess has seen countless variations throughout its evolution. It has been expanded from small to enormous boards to non-square boards, pieces have been added, new moves have been devised and new identities have been given to the pieces. It has been estimated that there are well over 2000 Chess variants in the world.
Chess games such as Chaturanga, Shatranj, Xiangqi and Shogi (and many others) pre-date Western Chess by over 1500 years and are still played in their respective regions, in some cases dwarfing Western Chess in popularity.
The 1500 year old Indian game of Chaturanga Chess played by 4 players on an 8 x 8 board was the “root” game from which modern day Chess was developed. By 1100AD the game migrated through Persia and then the Muslim world where Tamerlane Chess was played on a 10 x 10 board. This was followed 700 years ago by the German Courier Chess played on a 12 x 8 board. It became the most popular chess game in the western world and was played for 500 years until its recent fall in popularity late in the 20th century. Then 500 years ago the 8 x 8 board re-emerged with several leaper pieces removed from the game. This backward step hobbled the game, making a once great game not so great. The myopic punters of the time were unaware that they had been cheated and embraced the new variant, known today as WESTERN CHESS.
The rules of all these Chess games have morphed over time, as the game has migrated around the world, until Chess reached Europe in the 7th century and morphed into its ‘Western’ rule set in Spain, sometime in the late 15th century. The rules for WESTERN CHESS were subject to more changes over the last 500 years and were formally ratified in 1924 and this variant has become the most played variant of chess in the western world.
However, over 500 years on, Chess faces a new world, with sophisticated computer games competing for the attention of gamers. Unfortunately by today's standards, Western Chess, with a slow opening and congested middle game, and constricted movement of power pieces, has grown stale has suffered a decline in popularity in the face of the digital competition. This problem and frustration with the game play, has lead to the introduction of many variants of chess since the 1500's - over a thousand in the last 50 years.
Fortunately chessionados didn't forget the past.
The new GREAT CHESS is a contemporary variant of the great games of TAMERLANE and COURIER chess. With the return of the lost leapers and the liberation of the towers, chess players can enjoy a return to the glory days of chess. Great Chess combines the best features of these variants and draws inspiration from real world battlefields, to fill in the game play missing from traditional Western Chess. If you compare real life battles with traditional Western Chess battles, there are some glaring problems with - and omissions from - the old game. Great Chess addresses these issues with a new level of sophistication, speed and excitement, which bring the game into the 21st century.
2500 - 1500 BC Pakistan
Game pieces (speculatively called "chess pieces") uncovered in archaeological findings are considered as coming from other, distantly related board games, which may have had boards of 100 squares or more. Findings in the Mohenjo-daro and Harappa (2600–1500 BCE) sites of the Indus Valley Civilization show the prevalence of a board game that resembles chess.
The oldest chess game unearthed in Mohenjo Daro, Pakistan. It’s more than 3,400 year old.
Persian - Uzbekistan 700 AD
History of Chess
200 BC China
In China, around 200 B.C., a military Champion named Hán Xin (“Hahn Sheen”) designed a chess game that was designed to represent a particular battle, anticipated by Hán Xin’s troops as they waited out the winter holding their ground. This Chess game was called The game to capture Xiang Qi, Xiang Qi being the name of the Champion of the opposing army. (This battle is well established in Chinese history.)
A few years after his victory in this battle, Hán Xin fell out of favour with the emperor, and his game became less popular, or even forbidden, but was resurrected in the Tang Dyanasty (7th through 10th centuries A.D.).
At that time several new rules came into effect…and variations of the game spread throughout the world. In subsequent years, the name of the game was shortened to Xiang Qi, hence xiangqi. The Chinese characters, xiang and qi, also mean “elephant game,” and this became the most common interpretation, losing the original reference to that ancient battle.
50 BC - 200 AD
According to chess historians Gerhard Josten and Isaak Linder, "early beginnings" of chess can also be traced back to the Kushan Empire in Ancient Afghanistan, circa 50 BCE–200 CE.
Chess appears in Asia. The game, known throughout ancient Islam as Shatranj, starting with features that are familiar to a modern Chess player. The game was played on a board of 8 by 8 squares, just as Western chess is, but the board was not checkered. The pieces were arranged like Western Chess, but some of their identities were a little different
In India, players of Chaturanga, long considered the “root” game from which Western Chess was developed, would not be able to recognise the board, the pieces, or many of the moves of Western Chess. Four players battled on an 8 x 8 board. The pieces were restricted to small moves of one or two squares at a time.
Persia then adopted the game, turned it into a two player battle, changed the way pieces moved and changed the name to CHATRANG.
Around 650 AD the Muslim world embraced the game and developed many variants that included small and large boards and new pieces.
Chess first enters Europe, through Spain.
1000 AD - 1300 AD
By the middle of the 1300's the Muslim and Persian worlds had developed TAMERLANE chess. Played on a 11 x 10 board, with new pieces and new leapers, it was the favorite of the time.
The German variant, Courier Chess, played on an 8 x 12 board, is introduced into Europe. Wirnt von Gravenberg mentions Courier Chess in his Arthurian romance, Wigaloisin 1202. Courier Chess was an extraordinarily long lived Chess variant, spanning some 700 years, longer than Western Chess has existed so far, and bridging the transition between the medieval Chess brought in from Arabia and the Western Chess we play today. Courier Chess was played officially until as late as 1865.
Western Chess. The first known publication of the rules of the Western Chess variant: Repeticion de Amoresy Arte de Ajedrez by Luis Ramirez de Lucena, are published in Spain in 1497.
In 1617, Pietro Carrera invented Carrera Chess, a Chess variant played on an 8 x 10 board.
Great Chess or Indian/Turkish Great Chess appears, played on a 10 x 10 board.
In 1920, World Chess Champion José Raul Capablanca invented Capablanca Chess, a Chess variant played on an 8 x 10 board.
In 1984, Christian Freeling invented Grand Chess, a Chess variant played on an 10 x 10 board and in 1988, Omega Chess was invented by Daniel MacDonald.
The Western Chess variant, as recognised in 1924 by FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs, the International Chess Federation) has remained basically unchanged for five hundred years. Stable rules are one of the great things about Western Chess but also one of the things that is consider a weakness.
Many consider FIDE/Western Chess has become stagnant, and because of this, there has been an incredible proliferation of new Chess variants in the last 400 years, starting with Carrera Chess in 1617, through to the 1984 Grand Chess, the 1996 Fisher Random Chess (Chess960) and in 2010 Great Chess.
If history is any guide, it is fair to say that the Chess we play tomorrow will look nothing like the Chess we play today.
Charlemagne chess 11th c.
Iran, Nishapur.12th c.
Lewis chessmen Norway 12th c.
Courier Chess (Dutch Painter - Lucas van Leyden, 1494-1533)
he game was created around the mid-16th century (presumably by priests) and is based on earlier large board shogi games.
Chaturaji: Four-handed version of chaturanga, played with a die.
Chaturanga: An ancient East Indian game, presumed to be the common ancestor of chess and other national chess-related games.
Courier Chess: Played in Europe from 13th to 19th century. Was one step in evolving modern chess out of shatranj.
Shatranj: An ancient Persian game, derived from chaturanga.
Short Assize: Short game played in England and Paris in the second half of the 12th century.
Tamerlane Chess: A significantly expanded variation of shatranj.
Regional (Chess played around the world today)
Banqi (or Chinese Half chess) (China)
Game of the Three Kingdoms (China)
Jungle (or Dou Shou Qi, The Jungle Game, Jungle Chess, Animals Chess, Oriental Chess, Children's Chess) (China)
Khmer ouk (Cambodia)
Main chator (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines)
Rek Chess (Cambodia)
East India “John” Company set, Early to mid-19th c.
In 1849, the Staunton Chess pieces appeared in Britain and became a standard set in many Western countries.
Josef Hartwig, Bauhaus Chess Set, 1924