"We are but chessmen, who to move are fain
Just as the great Chessplayer doth ordain;
He moves us on life's chessboard to and fro,
And then in Death's box shuts us up again."
Few games have weathered the test of time as well as the game of chess which has been in existence for over 1,500 years. Separated from a long list of games, chess has penetrated deeply into human life throughout ages and continents.
The very survival of chess is proof of its importance. Society, in its development drops everything of secondary significance, leaving for future generations only what is the most important. It has been preserving chess for many centuries, realizing the infinite intellectual, aesthetic, and moral value of the game.
Nowadays, the game continues to draw a large following. Writer Martin Amis, comedian Stephen Fry, magician David Blaine, model Carmen Kass, pugilists Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, actors Will Smith, Woody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon and Greta Scacchi, even Madonna and Sting, are all "woodpushers."
I invite you to join me in journeying into the world of chess, a journey full of adventure, challenge, and discovery. In the process of our quest we will explore the various aspects of chess, and the impacts it has on chess players.
(These impacts range from the intellectual development of children to the prolonged memory/mental health of seasoned citizens.) While you pack your bags for the quest, let us briefly discuss the history of the evolution of chess.
Many theories have been made about the origin of chess. China, Egypt, Persia, and countless others have all at one point been believed to be the origin. Currently, the most popular theory is that the game originated in India during the late 6th century AD.
However, the game that the Indian's played, which they called Chaturanga, was far different from the game we play today. It would take centuries of evolution before the modern game of chess emerged.
Eventually, the game spread in all directions from India, spawning many variants. The first stronghold of chess was the Middle East. During that time the name of the game began to evolve.
The Persian word for the game was shah meaning "king." Through the tangles of time, the name came to Europe as, among other variations, esches meaning "check" in old French. From here it was only took a minor simplification to the modern English "chess."
Evolution of pieces followed along with the development of the civilization. In Arabic mythology rukh was an enormous condor-like bird. This piece which was called rukh went through many transformations; it is likely that at some point the piece took the shape of a ship, a bird, and a chariot.
During the Middle Ages, when chess became a pass time of the feudal lords, the rukh took the shape of a castle. The other chess pieces also went through many transformations before they took the shapes of the pieces we use today.
The moves of the pieces also evolved over time. The modern rules of the game were adopted from Italy sometime in the late 15th century. And thus, the modern game of chess was born.
A visiting potentate asked the Caliph Harum al-Rashid, "What is Chess?"
The Caliph rejoined, "What is Life?"
So, let our journey begin.