Who Invented Chess, looking back at years 1000 to 500:
Part of the Chess History Guide

Chess History Guide
Who Invented Chess
[1000 - 500]


1000 - 500

Shatranj, believed to be the forerunner to modern Chess, reached southern Spain during the 900s, brought in from Northern Africa by Black African and Arab descendants, collectively known as the Moors.

Chess Glossary - Who Invented Chess - Moors

Shatranj was the game known by the Muslim population, but the name was a re-branding effort after the Islamic conquest of Persia during the period between 633 and 644.

Chess Glossary - Who Invented Chess - Sassanid Persia

The game the Muslims had adopted was known by the Sassanid Persians as Chatrang.

But the trail appears to go slightly further back - or should that be further east - to Sassanid Persia's neighbours: North-West India, part of which is now Pakistan.

It is widely believed that the true origin of Chatrang was India, during the Gupta Empire, which ruled between the years AD 320 to AD 600.

Chess Glossary - Who Invented Chess - Gupta Empire

Those living in the Gupta era knew the game as Chaturanga, which in the classical Indian language of Sanskrit means "divided into four parts" or, in military terms, "four divisions".

At the time, Chaturanga was the term used to describe a platoon of the Indian army, which was divided into four parts/divisions:

  • Elephant Division
  • Chariot Division
  • Horseback Division
  • Foot-soldier Division

We can probably assume the Foot-soldier Division is what we, today, know as Pawns - every army, throughout history and even in today's modern warfare, had its fare share of 'expendable' soldiers, to do the ruler's dirty work.

The Horseback Division is now represented by the Knights - who fought bravely for King and country, in the days of honor and chivalry.

As for the Elephant Division, they're the pieces that we now call the Bishops ... You see, when the game of Chess swept up to Europe, most Europeans had never seen an Elephant, so the piece would have little meaning. Some other symbolic presence was required.

As the Church was a significant power - albeit a minor one - it was likely deemed that religion should have some figurehead, on the Board ...

Furthermore, the carved piece, representing the Elephant Division, had a peak that some referred to as being like the cap - the Mitre - as worn by Bishops. And so, the Elephant Division got its marching orders, in favor of the God botherer.

While the outright rulers, of the period, were the Royalty, their counsel of advisors often featured representatives of the Church. This helps explain the positioning, on the Chess Board, of the Bishops - they were seen as being significant, but in a minor capacity, compared to the King and Queen, respectively - and so, were placed on the outside of the two Royal Chess pieces.

Lastly, the Chariot Division was to be replaced by the Rook. Remember, on its journey from India, where Chess started life as Chaturanga, the game then spread to Persia ...

With the Persian word for Chariot being "rokh", that probably settles the name; with "Rook" being the word the Europeans cobbled-together, in translation.

As for the Rook piece taking on the form of a Castle's Turret, it's likely to be owing to battles taking place against a King in his Castle ...

Upon the tower, at the top of the Turret, the King's army would have placed siege cannons to blast out at the enemy, who held back at a distance - hence, the long-range power of the Rook Chess Piece.

It all kind of fits together, now, doesn't it?

Moving On: Who Invented Chess: Conclusion (Page 8).



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