A Brief Chess History

Want a brief chess history? Variations of chess have been played for thousands of years, but the history of chess we play today developed in the 15th century in southern Europe.

Early Chess History
Chess originated in India as the 6th century game "caturanga," which featured a military theme. Pieces were named after military divisions of the time. Infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots in Indian chess sets later evolved into the pawn, knight, bishop, and rook we know today.

Persian and Arab traders later brought the game into the Middle East where it became "shatranj." Some areas used the name "shah," which is Persian for "king". This usage may have involved into the current terms "check" and "chess."

In the 10th century, Moorish traders introduced the game into southern Europe, where it became popular in Spain and Italy.

Modern Chess Becomes Popular
In the 15th century, rules changes by Spanish and Italian masters began to spread throughout Europe. Pawns became more active, bishops more mobile and the queen became the most powerful piece on the board. The changes made to the game at this time have held up into the modern era.

Spanish and Italian chess masters produced many books on theory and began formalizing opening and endgame strategies. By the 18th century, chess masters in France began to refine strategies and chess became a popular game in coffeehouses across Europe.

In the 19th century, chess continued to grow in popularity with clubs, books and journals appearing all over Europe. Newspapers began to print chess problems in daily papers, and in 1843, German chess masters von der Lasa and Bilguer produced the first complete manual of chess theory.

The Age Of The Grandmaster
In the 20th century, competitive chess became the search for a world champion. In 1914, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia conferred the title of Chess Grandmaster to several of the best players of the day.

In 1924, the World Chess Federation was formed and quickly began tournaments to establish a World Champion of chess. Beginning in 1948, Russian chess players dominated the top of the world rankings and the title of World Chess Champion was associated with names like Boris Spassky, and Garry Kasparov.

The current World Champion is Viswanathan Anand, of India who won the title in 2007, bringing the history of chess full circle.

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