Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 6


Translate this page
Play through and
the games from
ChessCafe.com in the
ChessBase Game
A Brief History of Chess and the Chessboard
by Mark Donlan
According to A History of Chess by H.J .R. Murray, the game of chess can
trace its roots back to about 570 A.D. to the area of the Ganges Valley in
Northwest India. And C.J .S. Purdy, as reprinted in Chess Bits and Obits,
suggests that it was the Buddhist monks of this region who were the most
likely inventors; using the game as a "bloodless substitute for war."
The Ganges Valley
Chess came to Persia before the seventh century, and was popular throughout
the Muslim world by the eighth century. The earliest written reference to
chess was in a Persian romance from about 600. It is also referenced in
Sanskrit from 600-650, and mentioned in Arab literature from around 700.
Chess problems began to appear about 800 and the first book on chess was
written by Al-'Adli in about 850. A famous Arab Caliph, Harun ar-Rashid, is
said to have granted pensions to strong players of the day.
According to Murray, based on ancient variations in chess terminology, chess
was known in Southern Europe before 900, and references to chess in
European literature become numerous from about 1100. In 1474, the first
chess book in English, The Game and Play of Chess by William Caxton, was
published. Among the most famous chess pieces ever made are the Lewis
chessmen, found on the isle of Lewis in the Hebrides in 1831.
The Lewis Chessmen
There is even a modern debate as to whether these were carved in Trondheim,
Purchases from our
chess shop help keep
ChessCafe.com freely
Thinking with Chess
by Alexey Root
Chess Puzzles for Kids
by Murray Chandler
Starting Chess
by Daniel King
as previously suggested, or in Iceland. One reason for this is that Icelandic
sagas referred to a bishop as early as 1300; a time when no other country used
a chess piece called a bishop.
Henry A. Davidson, in A Short History of Chess, divides the history of chess
into five epochs:
The Sanskrit Period: in India to about A.D. 700
The Persian Period: about A.D. 700 to 800
The Arabic Period: about A.D. 800 to 1000
The Medieval Period: about A.D. 1000 to 1600
The Modern Period: from about A.D. 1600
As the game passed through these different cultures, it underwent many
changes to evolve into the game that we play today.
The game goes by many names: according to Davidson, in Arabic it is
"shatranj"; in Czech it is "sachy"; in Dutch it is "schaakspel"; in French it is
"echecs"; in German it is "schach"; in Greek it is "skaki"; in Italian it is
"scacchi"; in Russian it is "shachmati"; in Spanish it is "ajadrez"; and in
Turkish it is "santranch."
Chess is a two-player game that utilizes two armies on a field of battle. The
pieces originally represented the four components of the Indian army:
elephants, cavalry, chariots, and infantry. One player commands the white
army and the other the black army. At the beginning of the game, each side
consists of sixteen chessmen: one king (K), one queen (Q), two bishops (B),
two knights (N), two rooks (R) and eight pawns. Each of the chessmen move
in a different way.
The chessboard is the field of battle. It has sixty-four squares that are
alternately light and dark. The checkered board, with thirty-two light squares
and thirty-two dark squares, was introduced around 1100. When the board is
situated correctly, each player has a light-colored square on his right.
Remember: Light on the right.
The men (or pieces) of both armies travel along roads called ranks, files, and
diagonals. The roads that run from top to bottom are called files. There are
eight squares in each file, and eight files on the chessboard. Each file has a
name beginning with a letter. These are lettered a to h; i.e., from left to right,
a-file, b-file, c-file, etc. The picture of the chessboard given above is called a
The rows that run from side to side are called ranks. There are also eight
squares in each rank, and eight ranks on the chessboard. Each rank has a
name beginning with a number. These are numbered one to eight; i.e., from
bottom to top, first rank, second rank, third rank, etc.
By combining the file and rank designations, we can name each individual
square. Thus, the first rank contains the squares a1, b1, c1, d1, e1, f1, g1, and
h1. While the a-file contains the squares a1, a2, a3, a4, a5, a6, a7, and a8.
The slanted rows that touch at the corners are called diagonals. All their
squares are of the same color. A diagonal is named after the square that it
begins and ends on. So the longest diagonals are the a1-h8 diagonal and the
h1-a8 diagonal. Diagonals can have anywhere from two to eight squares.
There are twenty-six diagonals on the chessboard.
Furthermore, the chessboard can be separated four ways. The half of the
board on which the white pieces stand is called the white side (ranks one to
four), and the side with the black pieces is called the black side (ranks five to
The half of the board containing the starting position of the queens is called
the queenside (files a to d), and the half of the board containing the starting
position of the kings is called the kingside (files e to h). These designations
never change, even though the placement of the pieces may.
The four center squares of the chessboard, d4, d5, e4, and e5, occupy a very
strategic location and are of vital interest to your army's security. Almost all
the chessmen are more effective when placed in the center of the chessboard,
and the player who has more pieces or pawns controlling the center often has
more space in which to maneuver and an accompanying strategic advantage.
Thus, when you are deciding which move to make, think about how it affects
the center and whether it brings you closer to achieving your goals. In other
words, think before you move and always have a plan!
Knowing the letter designation for each chess piece and knowing the name of
each square allows us to map the coordinates and follow the progression of
any game from start to finish. To write down the moves in a chess game this
way is called taking notation. Nearly all the countries in the world understand
a system of notation called algebraic. Using algebraic notation players can
read and understand games that have been played centuries ago. In fact, the
first recorded chess game is said to have been played no later than 940 A.D.,
and was published by Murray in the British Chess Magazine in 1903.
To write a chess move you must note the following information for each side:
The symbol of the piece on move (e.g. R, N, B, K, Q).
The square that piece moves to (e.g. a1, b1, etc.).
We will return to this later.
In the meantime, you can learn more about the chessboard with the following
Chessboard Activities
Name that Square: Point to any square on the chessboard and ask the
student to identify it by its algebraic coordinates.
Color of the Square: Name any square on the chessboard by its algebraic
coordinates and ask the student to identify its color. Can they do this correctly
with their eyes closed?
How many ranks are on the board?
There are eight ranks on the chessboard.
How many squares are in each rank?
There are eight squares in each rank.
How many files are on the board?
There are eight files on the chessboard.
How many squares are in each file?
There are eight squares in each file.
How many diagonals are on the board?
There are twenty-six diagonals on the chessboard.
How many squares are in the a3-f8 diagonal?
There are six squares in the a3-f8 diagonal. Can the student name each square
in the diagonal. Name other diagonals as well. (One fun question is to ask the
student to name the squares in the b1-a2 diagonal, which of course gives the
answer within the question, but it is not always noticed.)
How many squares are on the edge of the board?
There are twenty-eight squares on the edge of the board.
How many squares are there on a chessboard?
This is a trick question, because, aside from the sixty-four squares, we can
count all squares two-by-two, three-by-three, four-by-four, etc., while the
board itself is one large square. In counting this way, there are at least 204
Mine Battle: This mini-game mixes elements from the popular games
Minesweeper and Battleship. Two players each use a chessboard print out.
Each player places eight pawns, designated by the letter "P," anywhere on the
board (see example above). They then take turns guessing at which square his
opponents "mines" are placed on. After each guess, the opponent says either
"hit" or "miss." The game ends when one player finds all the other player's
pawns. To keep track of guesses, draw a circle around any square that you
guess and use an "x" to mark a hit.
Loyd Jigsaw: Print and cut out the puzzle. Have the student put it together.
This is a puzzle created by Sam Loyd, and it is much more difficult than you
A PDF file of this article, along with all previous articles, is available in the
ChessCafe.com Archives.
If you have an exercise or suggestion that you would like to include in the
ChessCafe.com Chess Curriculum, please write to us via our Contact Page.
Comment on this month's column via our Contact Page!
[ChessCafe Home Page] [Book Review] [Columnists]
[Endgame Study] [The Skittles Room] [ChessCafe Archives]
[ChessCafe Links] [Online Bookstore] [About ChessCafe.com]
[Contact ChessCafe.com] [Advertising]
2012 BrainGamz, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"ChessCafe.com" is a registered trademark of BrainGamz, Inc.