13 Valuable History Of Chess You Should Know

chess history

Chess history is very interesting don’t you agree?

Are you searching for answers about who is the father of chess or what was the first chess machine introduced in the world of chess?  

I am interested to learn that as well, that is why I wrote and selected some of the chess histories that we can learn today…  

My daughter has a lot of question as well regarding some chess histories, like why is the design of chess pieces are like that why not like the Chinese chess pieces. 🙂  

And she also asked why are the chess pieces movement are like that, did it ever change a long time ago (I do have some idea about that).  

Do you know the answers? If you are interested to learn some of the 13 valuable chess histories, then continue reading.

Here are 13 of some of the valuable history of chess you and I should know

1. Is there a father of chess?

I’ve always wanted to learn who is the father of chess when we say “father” of something means they are the pioneer or the inventor of a particular invention etc…  

So, when we search online who is the father of chess, we are going to see Wilhelm Steinitz as the “father of modern chess.”  

Well, because Wilhelm Steinitz considered and proclaimed the first World Champion. He was very influential and has made a considerable amount of chess theories during his time. He made mention that excellent strategies and small advantages can lead to winning the chess game, not just sacrifices and attacks.  

But I was looking for the father of chess from the very beginning, the first creation of chess… 🙂   So, I found out some legendary stories about who is considered to be the first father of chess.

Also read this recommended article:
Some of the best chess players biggest games upsets!

Who doesn’t like to hear origin stories or even legendary stories? Lol!

Ok, so there is a story in India where a wise old man in India named Sissa Ibn Dahir, and a King named Shihram who is considered to be an oppressive ruler. So, the wise old man showed the King a game where the pieces represent some key people in their society.

And in that game, each piece will show how each of them is needed to support each other to win. The King got excited and that he wanted to keep the game and use it in every aspect of his Kingdom.

Well, the basic idea of the wise man is to make the King realize that there should be no oppression and the King should treat his people well.

There is more to the story of course, but we should stop from there where the chess has been introduced… 🙂

So, can we say that the father of chess is from India and it could either be Sissa Ibn Dahir or King Shihram?

What do you think?

I know it’s just a story, and there are other stories from other countries as well.

But technically, I can say that in history records Wilhelm Steinitz is considered as the “Father of Modern Chess.” For me, that is close enough for being the father of chess. 🙂

2. When and where did the first modern chess play and recorded?

You would probably think that it’s India, right?   Well, I do believe the idea started in India, but I would like to know where chess started and have been recorded in history.  

Here’s what I found out, the first modern and oldest chess game that was played and recorded was in 1475 in Spain.The chess was played between Francesco di Castellvi and Narciso Vinyoles.  

Francesco di Castellvi was the baron and lord of Benimuslem Mulata, and he is from Valencia, Spain.   And…   Narciso Vinyoles, he is from Valencia, Spain as well and is a government official too.   Both of them I can say are highly influential, and both of them are poets and are authors of Scachs d’amor or Chess of Love.  

Ok, some chess experts had a quick look at their recorded game, and they were not impressed with the actual game.   You can check out the game here.

3. What are the other names of chess from other countries who played this type of game?

When we talk about what was the name of chess before we need to research about the countries that were considered to be the origin of chess…  

In India, they once called it Indian Chess that was in the 18th and 19th centuries. The other names which chess game has originated from were in the very olden times 6th centuries, and it was called Chaturanga a Sanskrit term which describes the four divisions of the army represented in the game.  

Another name was Ashtapada, which is also a Sanskrit term that describes the 8 by 8 board game.   So, from India’s Chaturanga, we have another name for chess in Middle Persian called Shatranj.  

And Shatranj originates from India’s Chaturanga. The game is played almost the same as the modern chess game …  

But…  

Specific rules are different like a stalemate is a win instead of a draw, and castling is not allowed.  

Then when we go to China, where they have Chinese Chess and also called Xiangqi.   Xiangqi also called as an elephant game is played with two players, and the main objective is to capture its General or King. Just like in international chess game.  

This Chinese Chess game is also played in Vietnam and one of the most popular past time and they call it Cờ tướng.  

One game from Korea, which was derived from Chinese Chess is called Janggi, also called Korean Chess. The game is very similar to Xiangqi, and the game ends when you checkmate the King.  

If we research Japan, they do have Japanese Chess which they call Shogi. This is another two player game where it was played in 16th centuries. This game is made of a board game with a 9 by 9 square and totals 81 of a square board.  

Shogi is also called Game of Generals, where the objective is also the same with chess which is to capture the or checkmate your opponent’s King.  

Those are some of the names of chess from countries that played this type of game, particularly the following:

  • India, they called it Indian Chess, Chaturanga, Ashtapada.
  • Middle Persian, they called it Shatranj.
  • China, they called it Chinese Chess, Xiangqi.
  • Vietnam, they have Cờ tướng (don’t know how to pronounce this…) 🙂
  • Korea, it was called Korean Chess or Janggi And…
  • Japan, they call it Japanese Chess, Shogi, or Game of Generals.

Also read article about “countries that plays the most chess“.

4. What was the first machine that was introduced to the world of chess?

Have you ever heard of Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer?   It was the first chess-playing computer that was able to beat the chess Grand Master Garry Kasparov.  

Deep Blue is an IBM project and lead by Feng-Hsiung Hsu, and it was successful in beating Kasparov in the year 1997. There were some disputes that Kasparov was trying to claim like there was a human chess player behind the moves.  

That was a fascinating history of chess about man vs. machine, but did you know that there was a chess machine built in the late 18th centuries that was used to defeat many chess players during that time.  

It was called Mechanical Turk, and it was also called Automation Chess Player.   Invented by Wolfgang von Kempelen, he created a robot or machine that can play like a human being it became very popular until the secret was revealed.  

The Mechanical Turk was fake, the machine was hiding a chess player inside, and it is the one controlling the machine.   The chess player inside can see the game and move accordingly. The method was like a pantograph machine.  

Unlike Kasparov’s claim of Deep Blue, which was never proven, the first chess machine that was introduced is the Mechanical Turk.  

Although a fake one…lol!  

Regarding Deep Blue, I believe other prototypes were made before, but it was never really used and was not well known.  

This is an exciting part of the history of chess regarding chess machines or chess computers that we should at least know about. 🙂

Also read: 25 Interesting Chess Birthday Gift Ideas You Need To See

5. How did the modern chess game for the tournament start?

As I understand the modern chess game started when competition or chess tournament began…  

And…  

Chess timer was integrated to the game because the players in competitive chess during the 1851 London chess tournament were taking so many hours to analyzed a move and some chess players took really long hours to make a single move.  

So, in 1861 the tournament has introduced time limits and sandglasses where used and then pendulum types of chess time limits, then we ended up using modern chess clocks today with buttons to stop each clock every time you press the button.  

Many other rules came up at that time, and it was the basis of our modern chess tournament we know today.   Like the break during a game, sealed moves and other moves that can be equivalent to a win.  

Almost all of those rules have been improved or changed for the modern chess tournament game today.

6. What were the changes with the chess pieces movements?

Have you ever wanted to learn what changes happened with the chess pieces movement in the late centuries up to now…  

So, I wanted to create one as a simple reference for the changes of the chess pieces movements since history.   We are going to look at all the chess pieces (Pawn, Rook, Knight, Bishop, Queen, and King) and the changes that happened.  

For the Pawn movement:   The pawn can only move one square at a time before, and that is one of the reasons chess plays before were very slow.  

So, what happened was Pawn was given a two square forward move from its initial position.  

And that is what we are using at present.  

For the Rook movement:   Rook’s movement did not change; it still moves straight lines through unoccupied squares either horizontally or vertically.   The Rook was depicted as a chariot in chess pieces…  

So, frequently, the chariot can move fast and moves straight, maybe that is why the movement of Rook stayed that way till now! 🙂  

For the Knight movement:   Knight’s movement did not change as well, and it still moves with its L shape movement.   Some chess experts say that the Knight’s move is a combination of Rook and the Bishop’s movement since it is in between of the Rook and Bishop.  

So, what they say is that the straight square moves of the Knight is like of a Rook and the diagonal like the square move is of the Bishop.  

Interesting theories and another one is of that the horses are used to flank enemy cavalries that are much slower.   Anyway, the Knight’s movement remains the same up to now.  

For the Bishop movement:   Bishop’s movement has made a lot of changes, and we know modern Bishop movement to be straight lines diagonally and has no restriction as long as the diagonal squares are not occupied because Bishop cannot jump over a chess piece.  

But…  

Before this new chess move, the Bishop can only move two squares diagonally and can leap over a chess piece that is on its way.  

Another movement that was described with the Bishop was that it could move one square diagonally, and the last movement that was described as it can vertically or horizontally move two square, jumping over the first square too…  

It had at least three movements which the Bishop underwent before finally it was changed to what it is today.   It was also not considered a powerful piece during that time, compared today.  

For the King movement:   Let’s take a look at the King first before we talk about the movement of Queen last.   The King’s movement did not change, as it can move in any direction, horizontally, diagonally, and vertically.  

But with only one square movement, another movement that was not available for the King a long time ago was the castling move.   Castling was not allowed with King and Rook’s special move, unlike today’s modern chess move.  

Today we enjoy the castling move with our King to put the King into a more safer place.  

For the Queen movement:   The last one we are going to look at is the Queen’s movement…   The Queen today can move like a Rook and Bishop, it can move diagonally, vertically, and horizontally without any restriction as long as the squares are not occupied.  

But…  

Did you know that the Queen before can only move one square diagonally, and then it was allowed to move two squares diagonally after, it was not that powerful once upon a time?  

Then the Queen moves the way it moves in today’s modern chess game…   A more powerful Queen and she was given the name of Mad Queen.  

The movements to date have not changed, and we are now using modern chess moves we know today.

7. What is the history of the mad queen?

The idea to make the Queen powerful as it is today came about because of the slow pace game of chess centuries ago…  

As you know from the above history of chess moves, the Queen can only move one to two square diagonally.  

The purpose of the Queen was to protect the King, which is one of the main objectives of the game, and capture the opponent’s King. The Queen is portrayed today as the one who can protect and checkmate the opponent’s King.  

That kind of power given to the Queen has turned the chess game into the “Mad Queen Chess.”  

But centuries ago, did you know that Queen was not a woman but a man.  

There were some misinterpretations during the passing of the chess game, and since the piece was next beside the King, it was assumed that that piece was its Queen

8. When was chess notation started?

There was a time in chess history that the chess moves were written in books with complete sentences of the chess moves…  

We surely can do that if we want to, but why would we do that if we already have chess notation or algebraic notations. 🙂   Chess notation was first described in 1737 by Philip Stamma, and he introduced the algebraic notation for a chess game.  

Philip Stamma used the a-h and 1-8 notation as we would in the modern chess game.   But, the only difference that time was he did not use the chess pieces name except for Pawn as “P,” but instead uses the file (a-h) to describe the movement of the chess pieces like Rook, Knight, Bishop, Queen, and King.  

So, what happens is that the Rook will be “A” or “H,” instead of “R” and King will be “E” instead of “K.”  

That type of chess notation has lead to other chess notation that we know today.   Today we read and write chess notation by writing the first letter of the chess piece and then writing the square to which it moves.

9. Who made the modern chess designs?

It was Staunton who popularized a standard design that we have seen and use today, together with one individual who designed the chess set (which I am going to tell you later)…  

Other chess piece designs were first made by John Calvert in 1790, he was considered as one of the top chess set creators during that time.   John Calvert’s chess sets were made of ivory, and the King’s design has an urn-shaped top.  

One particular thing that made Calvert’s chess sets desirable was that he stamps his name on his chess sets.   And when he died, his wife took over the Calvert Chess sets business till her death in 1840.  

The issue with the chess sets a long time ago was that the chess sets would be tough to distinguish if in case the game will be played in another country with a different style or design of chess sets.  

That is when Staunton came in with Nathaniel Cook, he is an architect who looked at all the recent designs of chess sets and decided with a pattern that everyone can easily distinguish. Then Nathaniel Cook used Howard Staunton’s name with the new chess set that we all are familiar or should be familiar today.  

So, it was Nathaniel Cook who made the modern chess designs and named after Staunton.

10. What were the chess pieces made from before?

We have seen chess pieces of today made from plastic, wood, or silicone…   However, a long time ago chess pieces were made from ivory which is the most common, and other chess pieces were made from a bone (I bet animal bones) with an ivory topping in the country of Europe.

Another chess piece called the Isle of Lewis was made of a walrus tusk, believed to be of Icelandic origin.  

Now, we do have ebony types of chess pieces, mostly heavy sets of chess pieces or weighted chess pieces.  

We still have the common plastic types of chess pieces and even works perfectly mainly if it is weighted.

11. What is the essential significance of Fischer and Spassky chess match?

It was the Match of the Century as they say, well because the actual game happened during the Cold War.  

During that time, Soviet Chess School were dominating the chess world, and it has a significant political element since the Soviet are showing their intellectual superiority to the whole world.  

While Bobby Fischer was very vocal in saying that the Soviet chess player is trying to monopolize the game by agreeing to short draws against themselves in tournaments.  

In other words, the game was being fixed, and Fischer was getting media attention regarding that same issue and wanting to challenge the current World Champion Spassky.  

The game eventually happened with some exciting moments of the game and Bobby won the competition becoming the second American to become the World Champion.  

Bobby Fischer ended the winning streak of the Soviets but only for a short period since he did not defend his title.   Bobby demanded a lot of controversial and rule changing at that time…  

The essential significant that happened with the Fischer and Spassky match was that Fischer was able to break the 24 years winning streak of Soviet and Fischer became the second American to win the World Champion.

12. Women playing competitive chess

Women played chess even in the early years, not in a competitive way though, but as a past time.  

Women playing against men were of the upper class of the society.   Some people debate why there are only men in chess tournaments, well, the reason was there are only a few women chess player, I think even up to now.  
But the question would be can women compete with men…   Yes, of course…   The game does not need physical strength, and it is not the main factor in becoming a world champion.  

There was a woman prodigy named Judit Polgar who became a Grand Master following all the rules and regulations for men’s competitive chess.  

She was able to defeat reigning world number one chess players during her career.   Today, we have a Women Grand Master or WGM, but some still believe that there are only a few women chess players who come and join competitive chess.

13. Previous and Current holder of 2019 World Champion

The current holder of 2019 World Champion is Magnus Carlsen…   Magnus Carlsen won the World Champion in the year 2013 against India’s Viswanathan Anand.   Viswanathan Anand held the World Champion title for 6 years dated on 2007, till his loss to Magnus Carlsen.  

Here is the previous and current holder of 2019 World Champion:

  • Wilhelm Steinitz (1886-1894)
  • Emanuel Lasker (1894-1921)
  • Jose Raul Capablanca (1921-1927)
  • Alexander Alekhine (1927-1935, 1937-1946)
  • Max Euwe (1935-1937)
  • Mikhail Botvinnik (1948-1957, 1958-1960, 1961-1963)
  • Vasily Smyslov (1957-1958)
  • Mikhail Tal (1960-1961)
  • Tigran Petrosian (1963-1969)
  • Boris Spassky (1969-1972)
  • Robert James “Bobby” Fischer (1972-1975)
  • Anatoly Karpov (1975-1985)
  • Garry Kasparov (1985-2000)
  • Vladimir Kramnik (2000-2007)
  • Viswanathan Anand (2007-2013)
  • Magnus Carlsen (2013-current)

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Wrapping Up

This is just some of the valuable chess histories that we should probably have an idea about…  

All we need to know is that chess history has come a long way, the game that we love has become part of a very very very long history of changes, and up to now, we are still playing the game and still learning new things about chess.  

I was amazed at some of the chess histories like the Mechanical Turk; it was funny and smart at the same time… 🙂   I just selected some of the interesting and essential chess histories to research and shared it with you.  

I do hope you have learned something new with this short list of chess history. If you wanted to add or you have something you want to share regarding the chess history, please do leave your comment below.  

I would love to learn essential chess histories, as well.   Have fun learning chess! 🙂

Gary Flores

Hi there! I'm a dad with kids who loves to learn how to play chess by learning online - also, this is my way of refreshing my knowledge about this game of tactics & strategy. I created chessdelights.com to inspire people who are also learning, re-learning or teaching their kids the game of chess.

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