Chess is one of the most played and dearly loved games since the beginning of time. But what is its history? How did it come about? Who invented it? These questions could arise in the minds of any curious chess enthusiast. And that is exactly what we are going to discuss today.
Chess was invented in India around the 8th century, which was known as Chaturanga. It was then taken to the courts of Persia and there it was named Shatranj.
It is popular knowledge that Chess was first played in the Indian subcontinent. However, there is one legend that states how a wise man once invented a game to show King Shahram the importance of every person in his kingdom. The King loved the game so much that he ordered his subjects to learn and play the game. This earliest form of chess that arose in India was known as Chaturanga.
From India, it was taken to the courts of Persia and there it was named Shatranj. It was then picked up by southern Europe from the Middle East. Every generation and kingdom henceforth added to the development of chess until it developed to its current glory by roughly 1500 CE.
You would be surprised to know that the sides of the chess were initially taken as red and black in some parts of the world, especially in Europe. The pieces that we see today probably developed under the eye of Christian influence.
And yes, it was regarded as the play of the nobility. Initially, only the kings and nobles were allowed to play. By the 12th and 15th centuries, it had become so popular that it began to be considered as one of the seven skills a knight must-have. Modern chess was established during the 15th century in 1475.
The years marking the beginning of the 18th century to the late 1880s were called the romantic era. The games of this period were marked by fast and tactical moves. The book of Francois Andre Philidor outlined new ideas for opening games, and techniques that are still prevalent today. They opened with King’s Gambit or the Giuoco Piano. This period is said to have ended in the Vienna tournament when Wilhelm Steinitz won the game by showcasing the positional play in his game.
One of the most brilliant games of the Romantic Era is believed to be the Immortal Game played by Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky in 1851, London. Anderssen had called out a checkmate with just three remaining minor pieces.
Chess began to be timed by chess clocks during the 19th century in competitive play. Why? Because before the clocks, the games would last as long as 14 hours which became quite an inconvenience. Standardized chess boards and set time clocks made modern matches possible. The first international chess tournament was held in London in 1851. The games were marked by aggressive moves, typical of the romantic era. Well in the late 1800s, people believed that unless you were making bold choices on the board, the game wouldn’t be interesting. And this was the time Paul Morphy came into the field.
Morphy beat most of the masters of the time like Anderssen, Paulsen, Harrwitz etc. His most famous game was the Opera House game which he played against the Duck of Brunswick and a French Count.
Steinitz was not very fond of the aggressive play and hence, put forth the positional play which is still in use even today. When most of his contemporaries rejected the gambit, Steinitz decided to accept the gambit and played his positions tactfully to win. The very fact that this kind of play was new at his time gave him an edge over others which eventually led to him being crowned as the official world champion in 1886.
In 1894, Laskar beat Steinitz at his own game, defeating him for 10-5. A rematch three years later still wasn’t kind to Steinz as he was defeated yet again by Laskar for a 10-2. Lasker went on to become the longest-reigning world chess champion for 27 years to which Capablanca put an end.
The positional play had caught on with the rest of the chess world. Capablanca, known for his precise, no-drama positional play, claimed the championship by defeating Laskar in 1921. He was especially known for his endgame techniques. But, unlike his predecessors, Capablanca held the title only for six years. And even so, he is regarded as one of the greatest players whose games have plenty to teach us even to this day.
After Positional play what came into play was a new strategy of the game called hypermodernism in the 1920s. So, what is hypermodernism? Well, it is technically a way of controlling the centre with minor pieces. This was adopted by the masters of the game of the time like Aron Nimzovich, Richard Reti etc.
Some of the popular games you play today like the Indian Defence, Grunfeld etc were invented during this time. But the most noteworthy of the period was the opening known as Alekhine’s Défense, after of course, the fourth world champion, Alexander Alekhine.
Now, the reason why this opening is so unique is that it lures the white pieces into the centre to finish it off in the end. But Alekhine wasn’t just known for his tactical side. He was also celebrated for his aggressive side. Although he lost the match in 1935, he won it back to become the only world champion to pass away while reigning in 1946.
Alekhine’s death paved the way for yet another champion by winning the first FIDE overseen tournament in 1948. Botvinnik has many titles and prizes that he can proudly lay claim to. Being a computer scientist, he is also regarded as one of the fathers of computer chess.
From there to Fischer to Karpov to Kasparov to Carlsen, the world of chess has been evolving both in the plays as well as in thinking. Each player brings in something of their own that enriches the game like nothing before. The second-longest person to hold the title for 15 years was Kasparov. If you are wondering who was the first person to cross 2800, then your answer will stop at Kasparov.
But little did Kasparov know at the time that Carlsen would reign as the world champion and have the highest FIDE rating, beating him at 2876. Carlsen is a fan favourite among the masses who believe in the greatness of his game.
Chess came into being centuries ago and there is no doubt that it will be reborn through every generation – contributing and developing the game like never before.
Also Read : How to Play Chess