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History

Chess is a descendant of a game believed to have originated in India in the 6th century, called Chaturanga, itself may have been related to a much older Chinese game. Writings about this oldest form of Chess was found around 600 A.D.

Chaturanga is a Sanskrit word referring to the four arms of the old Indian army; elephants, cavalry, chariots and infantry, from which come the four types of pieces in that game. Checkmate comes from the ancient Persian word shah mat, meaning the King is helpless or defeated.

Chaturanga spread eastward to China and then through Korea to Japan. It appeared in Persia after the Islamic conquest (638-651) where it was first called Chatrang, and then Shatranj which is the Arabic form of the word. The spread of Islam to Sicily and the invasion of Spain by the Moors brought Shatranj to Western Europe and reached Russia through trade routes from several directions. By the end of the 10th century, the game was well known throughout Europe and had attracted serious interest of kings, philosophers and even poets.

It is at this point in the history of Chess that we see the changes that brings it into our modern era. From the early part of the second millenia to the end of the 15th century, many key notes take place in the shaping of the modern game of Chess.

One particular pastime in Chess that became popular in the 12th and 13th century was puzzle solving, in which the solver has to find a solution, for example, such as a forced checkmate in a given number of moves. Overall, strategies have become more refined in this era as knowledge of how to play at higher levels is past down and built upon.

Eventually, through great popularity and the refinement of players strategies, some of the rules of the game were modified to increase the complexity of the game and create a greater maneuverability for opponents to explore a wider range of strategic option. The most notable changes turned the Fers, a weak piece in Shatranj, into the Queen, the strongest piece in Chess, and the Alfil, which moved in two square steps, into the far-ranging Chess Bishop.

Towards the end of the 15th century, modern Chess became complete with promoting Pawns upon reaching the eighth and last rank, Castling in which a player could more quickly defend their King, and the implementation of Pawn Enpassant Capturing which signified the increased power of the Pawn to move two squares forward on the first move.

The new game achieved popularity all over Europe and by the 16th century, the best players were recording their games and theories in widely circulated books of Chess instruction.

The 18th century French player Francois-Andre Danican Philidor, was the leading player of his time and a renowned composer. In 1749 Philidor published one of the most influential theoretical works in Chess history, the book "Analysis of the Game of Chess". Philidor was the first to analyze many of the main strategic elements of Chess and to recognize the importance of proper Pawn play.

In 1843, english player Howard Staunton decisively defeated the leading French player, Pierre Charles de Saint-Amant, placing Staunton as the world's foremost chess figure in the mid 19th century. Staunton wrote several important theoretical works on Chess and also commissioned the first new design for the Chess pieces that remains to this day, by which they are named "Staunton Chessmen". He also organized the first international Chess tournament, held in London in 1851.

Since that time, Chess has continued to gain even more popularity and has arguably become the greatest strategy game ever.

 

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