Chess is a recreational and competitive board game played between two players.
It is played on a square chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. At the start, each player (one controlling the white pieces, the other controlling the black pieces) controls sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s king, whereby the king is under immediate attack (in “check”) and there is no way for it to escape. There are also several ways a game can end in a draw.
The history of chess can be traced back nearly 1500 years, although its earliest origins are uncertain.
The precursors of chess originated in northern India during the Gupta empire, where its early form in the 6th century was known as Chaturanga. This translates as ‘the four divisions’, meaning infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively.
Chess was introduced to Persia from India and became a part of the princely or courtly education of Persian nobility. In Persia, it became “chess,” meaning “Shah,” or king.
Following the Arab invasion and conquest of Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world.
The oldest archaeological chess artifacts ─ ivory pieces ─ were excavated in ancient Afrasiab, today’s Samarkand, in Uzbekistan, Central Asia, and date to about 760, with some of them possibly being older.
The oldest known chess manual was in Arabic and dates to about 840, written by al-Adli ar-Rumi (800–870), a renowned Arab chess player, titled Kitab ash-shatranj (The Book Of Chess). This is a lost manuscript, but is referenced in later works.
Buddhist pilgrims, Silk Road traders and others carried it to the Far East, where it was transformed into a game often played on the intersection of the lines of the board rather than within the squares. Chinese chess and Shogi are the most important of the oriental chess variants.
The game reached Western Europe and Russia by at least three routes, the earliest being in the 9th century. By the year 1000 it had spread throughout Europe.
The game of chess was then played and known in all European countries. A famous 13th-century manuscript covering chess, backgammon, and dice is known as the Libro de los juegos.
In Europe, the moves of the pieces changed in the 15th century. The modern game starts with these changes.
“Romantic chess” was the predominant playing style from the late 18th century to the 1880s. Chess games of this period emphasized more on quick, tactical maneuvers rather than long-term strategic planning.
The Romantic era of play was followed by the Scientific, Hypermodern, and New Dynamism eras.
In the second half of the 19th century, modern chess tournament play began, and the first official World Chess Championship was held in 1886.
The 20th century saw great leaps forward in chess theory and the establishment of the World Chess Federation.
In 1997, an IBM supercomputer beat Garry Kasparov, the then world chess champion, in the famous Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov match, ushering the game into an era of computer domination. Since then, computer analysis – which originated in the 1970s with the first programmed chess games on the market – has contributed to much of the development in chess theory and has become an important part of preparation in professional human chess.
Later developments in the 21st century made the use of computer analysis far surpassing the ability of any human player accessible to the public. Online gaming, which first appeared in the mid-1990s, also became popular in the 21st century.
The game of chess is commonly divided into three phases: the opening, middlegame, and endgame. There is a large body of theory regarding how the game should be played in each of these phases, especially the opening and endgame. Those who write about chess theory, who are often also eminent players, are referred to as “theorists” or “theoreticians”.
Chess can raise your IQ – At least one study has shown that moving those knights and rooks around can in fact raise a person’s intelligence quotient. In a review of the educational benefits of chess, Robert Ferguson describes a study of 4,000 Venezuelan students produced significant rises in the IQ scores of both boys and girls after 4 months of chess instruction. Other research has corroborated these results of skill transfer.
The world’s most expensive chess set is valued at over 9.8 Million Dollars. This is the Jewel Royale Chess Set which was created in Great Britain and commisioned by the Royale Jewel Company.
The largest chess piece is a king piece which measures 6.09 m (20 ft) tall and 2.79 m (9 ft 2 in) in diameter at its base, and was achieved by World Chess Museum, Inc. DBA World Chess Hall of Fame (USA) in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA, on 6 April 2018.
The largest chess set board measures 5.89 m (19 ft 4 in) on each side. The king is 119 cm (47 in) tall and is 37.4 cm (1 ft 2 in) wide at the base. The set was made by the Medicine Hat Chess Club (Canada) and was presented and measured in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, on 27 May 2009. The Guidelines have been updated and are now requiring the chess pieces to be bigger as well as the chess board.
The smallest handmade chess set measures 8 mm x 8 mm (0.32 in x 0.32 in), and was achieved by Ara Davidi Ghazaryan (USA) in Los Angeles, California, USA, on 22 August 2020.
The largest chess lesson has 1,459 participants and was achieved by two Muttenz chess clubs and two Muttenz schools (all Switzerland) in Muttenz, Switzerland, on 20 September 2018.
The Master game with most moves on record was one of 269 moves, when Ivan Nikolic’ drew with Goran Arsovic’ (both Yugoslavia, now Serbia and Montenegro) in a Belgrade, Yugoslavia tournament, on 17 February 1989. It took a total of 20 hr 15 min.