Evolution of the Game of Chess

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Evolution of the Game of Chess

Timeline of the Evolution of the Game of Chess

The 6th century

In this century, the game of chaturanga originated in India. This is where other board games like chess, Janggi and Shogi can trace their origins. In this century too, the game as was known by its Arabic name shatranj is mentioned. This transition from chaturanga to shatranj was because the “Ch” did not exist in Arabic and hence changing that to “sh” and making a small change to the ending too. This was between the years of 636 and 651 when the Persian empire was conquered by the Arab armies. This game was played on an 8 x 8 un-checkered board with each player having 16 pieces. The Islamic armies spread it across areas of North Africa and Spain. From there, it spread in almost every direction reaching India, turkey and to Mongolian horsemen (Cazaux, and Knowlton).


Latrunculi was a roman game played by two opposing sides and was first documented in 116 to 124 BC. Tafl is said to have developed from this as a game of strategy popular in some European countries before the arrival of chess.

According to Japanese scholars, the Japanese chess- Shogi was introduced around the reign of Emperor Kimmei at around AD. 540. However, this is highly unlikely as there was no evidence of chess at the time and the game most likely came to Japan directly from China or via Korea around 1000- 1200 AD (Cazaux, and Knowlton).

The 9th century.

The earliest treatise of the rules of the game which is credited to the Arabs dates back to this century and phrases such as “Shah mat” which translate to the modern-day Checkmate existed in the end game rules (Cazaux, and Knowlton).

The 11th Century

By the late 11th century the characteristic dark and light squares of chess are introduced. In this period too, the earlier versions of Chinese chess were played, and some historians believe the Indians introduced it as it can be interpreted as the “elephant game” (Gollon).

The 13th to 14th century

Between the 13th and 14th century the rules of the pawns being able to move two places on the first move and the en passant rule were introduced respectively.  Between 1422 and 1525 various new rules in chess are adopted. In 1422, the rule that a stalemate is a draw is introduced. In 1450 the movement of the radical change to the movement of the queen piece was introduced. Between 1475 and 1525 the modern moves of the mad queen, bishop, and castling are adopted. These were to make the game more enjoyable exciting and faster. Originally, from the Persian game, the piece playing as the queen had its movement restricted. Between 1471 and 1474 books dedicated to chess were first published. In 1575, the first chess tournament was held in Madrid.

1744- 1783

This can be considered the age of Philidor as during this period he introduced a system of play for chess and even played opponents, at times simultaneously, while blindfolded (Murray).


In this year an American chess book is published.


Detailed descriptions of the Ethiopian chess are captured by an English artist and diplomat Henry Salt, and they had a very strong Arab influence after a comprehensive review in 1820-1860 (Cazaux, and Knowlton).


There was the development and introduction of The Staunton Standard for the chess pieces that has now become standard for all tournaments (Murray).


Timed chess is introduced for the first time.


Mechanical game clocks are introduced in tournament play. This had the effect of making the game faster.


In this year the first official world tournament is played. This was between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort where Steinitz wins.


FIDA introduces the title of International Grandmaster and International Master.



Bobby Fisher wins the world chess championship and he went on to become among the most notable chess players globally.


Garry Kasparov becomes the 13th world chess champion by beating Antony Karpov. He also becomes one of the most notable chess players in history.


In this year Garry Kasparov plays a chess-playing computer. The computer wins a game against a reigning champion for the firm time. However, Kasparov manages to win the match.


During this year, the supercomputer Deep Blue wins a rematch against the reigning world champion Garry Kasparov. This was the first time a computer beat a reigning champion in a chess match.


Magnus Carlsen achieves the highest Elo rating ever of 2861. This was higher than Garry Kasparov’s Elo rating of 2851.


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