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THE HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF CHESS IN ANCIENT INDIA

Posted by Paul Anderson on July 13, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Game Of The Week

By Anthea Carson NN

 

A few years ago I wrote an article about the origins of chess. It started as just an idea for a hubpage article which didn’t mean much to me at the time but I thought, since they paid by the view for clicks on their advertisements, I needed material to write about.

 

 

What started out as a casual topic for content became a fascination for me that led to me hacking my way through half the Mahabharata, the edited, translated version of course.

 

The original was in Sanskrit, and has been described as the longest poem ever written. The shadowy origins can be traced all the way back to between 800 and 900 BC, and the current text that my edited, translated version originates from was probably written in the 4th century AD during the Gupta Empire in India. Mahabharata could be translated as “The great tale of the Bharata Dynasty,” according to Wikipedia. However this title doesn’t quite for me capture the mysticism of the original, literal translation of the two words, Maha Bharata. Maha (The Great) Bharata (Successor of King Bharat).


In short, it is the story of two brothers. The older, by birth, was the legitimate heir to the throne, but he was blind. In those times, and in that culture, blindness symbolized wickedness and so the people would not accept him as king. The younger brother was made king. After the younger brother died, the different sons of the two brothers disputed the legitimacy of the other to be king. It was a valuable piece of land they each desired to rule, the Kurukshetra, a fertile plain between two rivers. Thus started the Kurukshetra Wars, also called The Mahabharata. And it becomes much more than a war between two cousins. It was now a war between two families, the Kurus, and the Pandavas.

 

Contained in the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita, basically a conversation between the Pandava prince Arjuna and his charioteer, Krishna, who also happens to be an incarnation of a Hindu god.

 

At one point in their deeply spiritual dialogue Arjuna is shooting arrows from his chariot (which is the historical precedent for our modern rook), and he asks Krishna to take him up close so he can shoot his enemies better.

 


Krishna does so, after which Arjuna cries in essence, “Why did you do that? Why did you make me see that the people I’m killing are my own family. Now how am I supposed to kill them now.”

 

A similar feeling occurs for me when I can’t hate my chess opponent. It’s much easier to kill over the board when I can work up some hate. This is not an irrelevant side note of chess or war. It is a spiritual truth and conundrum contained within the Bhagavad Gita.

 

What, you might ask, does all this have to do with the history of chess?

 

Well, you see, I got so bogged down in this question myself that I failed to ever find the answer. I got so fascinated that I decided that if I had nine lives, I’d spend one of them pursuing this question even if it meant going to live in India in the region of Kurukshetra itself, to find some answers.

 

If you’re like me, and you too are deeply intrigued by the idea that the ancient game of chess originates somewhere around the time of the origins of this epic battle between cousins over the rulership of a fertile area of land between two rivers, then I say stay away from the topic altogether, if you value playing the game of chess.

 

You will find yourself so lost in the complexities of the details and tales within tales inside the Mahabharata that it will take hours and hours of valuable study time away from the game you love.

 

Of course many of the pieces moved differently in the ancient game. And it would take centuries for some brilliant mind to come up with the idea of using a checkered board instead of an undifferentiated white grid.

 

And of course most likely none of the games from these times were recorded, and had they been, they wouldn’t be analyzable by Fritz today, since the rules have changed many times since then.

 

The earliest game recorded, according to my limited research, is shown here:


Francesco di Castellvi vs Narciso Vinyoles

(The year was 1475, and took place in Valencia, Spain)

 

1. e4 This game may be the oldest recorded game of chess. 1... d5 2. ed5 Qd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. h3 Bf3 7. Qf3 e6 8. Qb7 Nbd7 9. Nb5 Rc8 10. Na7 Nb6 11. Nc8 Nc8 12. d4 Nd6 13. Bb5 Nb5 14. Qb5 Nd7 15. d5 ed5 16. Be3 Bd6 17. Rd1 Qf6 18. Rd5 Qg6 19. Bf4 Bf4 20. Qd7 Kf8 21. Qd8#


Black to move



See the diagram and answer here:

http://cschess.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=199108427

 

If it seems like 19… Bxf4 was a ridiculous blunder, keep in mind that in the early days of European chess it was considered rude not to accept a sacrifice. Many things about the game have changed over the centuries.

 

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This game, the first recorded game that we know of, stands in place of literally thousands of years of possible games that went before it, including the metaphorical game that might possibly represent the battle in the Bhagavad Gita. A battle that lasted only 18 days. A battle over who should be king. It really puts the whole game into a new perspective for me. It truly is the game of kings.


THE HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF CHESS IN ANCIENT INDIA

http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-game-replayer.php?id=102634

 

[Event "Valencia, Spain"]

[Site "http://cschess.webs.com/"]

[Date "1475.??.??"]

[EventDate "1475.??.??"]

[Round "?"]

[Result "1-0"]

[White "Francesco di Castellvi"]

[Black "Narciso Vinyoles"]

[ECO "B01"]

[WhiteElo "?"]

[BlackElo "?"]

[PlyCount "41"]

 

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. h3 Bxf3

7. Qxf3 e6 8. Qxb7 Nbd7 9. Nb5 Rc8 10. Nxa7 Nb6 11. Nxc8 Nxc8

12. d4 Nd6 13. Bb5+ Nxb5 14. Qxb5+ Nd7 15. d5 exd5 16. Be3 Bd6

17. Rd1 Qf6 18. Rxd5 Qg6 19. Bf4 Bxf4 20. Qxd7+ Kf8 21. Qd8#

1-0

 

This Week In Chess


On July 7th, the Colorado Springs Chess Club hosted the July Swiss 90 (4SS, G/90+30, $10 entry).  10 players joined the event.


Here are the results:


Standings. 2015 July Swiss

# Name ID Rtng Rd 1 Tot Prize

1 Paul Dou Anderson 12728345 2084 W6 1.0

2 Duwayne Langseth 11197175 1974 W7 1.0

3 Aleksand Bozhenov 15525004 1908 W8 1.0

4 Mark McGough 11366481 1857 W9 1.0

5 Brian Jo Rountree 12477167 1807 W10 1.0

6 Michael St Filppu 12915820 1706 L1 0.0

7 Geo Krasnopolskiy 12730517 1609 L2 0.0

8 Dean W Brown 10224098 1595 L3 0.0

9 Scott Ch Williams 15755696 1338 L4 0.0

10 Clark T Stroh 12761284 unr. L5 0.0

Categories: 2015

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