Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Origins of chess
The origins of chess is one of the most controversial areas of board gaming history. Countries which, at one time or the other, have been associated with invention of chess include China, India, Egypt, Greece, Assyria, Persia, Arabia, Ireland and Uzbekistan.
While it is generally thought that chess originated from the Indian game Chaturanga from around 1400 years ago, the evidence for this theory has long been recognized as weak, primarily because no physical evidence of the ancient Indian game to date has been excavated. However textual and circumstancial evidence currently favour India over other sources.
Among other early literary evidence for chess is a middle-Persian epic Karnamak-i-Artakhshatr-i-Papakan which mentions its hero as being skilled at chess. This work is dated with some reserve, however, at 600 CE: The work could have been composed as early as 260 CE and as late as 1000 CE. The earliest evidence which we can date with some certainty is in early Arabic chess literature dating from the early 9th century CE.
Many of the early works on chess gave a legendary history of the invention of chess, often associating it with Nard (a game of the Tables variety like Backgammon). However, only limited credence can be given to these. Even as early as the tenth century Zakaria Yahya commented on the chess myths, "It is said to have been played by Aristotle, by Yafet Ibn Nuh (Japhet son of Noah), by Sam ben Nuh (Shem), by Solomon for the loss of his son, and even by Adam when he grieved for Abel." In one case the invention of chess was attributed to Moses (by the rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra 1130 CE).
Other Theories for the origin of chess
- Cox-Forbes theory - Chess originated from four-handed chaturanga
- Shahnama theory - Chess as a replacement for war
- Educational theory - Chess designed to teach a prince tactics
- Son's death theory - Chess designed to explain a son's death to mother
The main claim for Irish origin is the claim that 2 chess tables were bequested in the will of Cathair Mor who died in 153 CE. The Celtic game of fidchell is believed to be a battle game (as opposed to a hunt game like tafl or brandub) like chess, and possibly a descendant of the Roman game ludus latrunculorum.
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