A Chess Timeline – (Invention, Origins & Who)

Chess has a history that could be over 1500 years old. Chess was arguably first around as early as the 6th century, it is Ancient, but who invented the game of chess as we know it, and how has it developed over time? So when was chess invented exactly and where?

The game of chess as we know it today was invented around 1475 and probably in the Valencian region of Spain during ‘The Golden Age of Valencia’. The inventor of modern chess is the medieval Spanish with a version known as ‘queens chess’. So named as the versatility of the then ‘weak Queen’ and pawns was added.

There is far more to the history of chess than can be explained in a few sentences, so if you would like to know more about where chess came from, how it and how it has developed to how we know chess today, then please read on.

DateEvent
6th CenturyChaturanga appears in India
7th CenturyPersia adopts a version called Shatranj where ‘Check’ was introduced
9th CenturyAppears in Russia
10th CenturyArrives in Southern Europe
12th CenturyPieces began to have definite shapes
1262Chess becomes Shakhmaty in Russia
1450-1500Queens Power Increased
1450-1500Two 2-Square Pawn Move Introduced
1450-1500En Passant introduced
1450-1500Modern Chess Invented
1620Castling Introduced

The Invention, Creation and Development of Chess, the Geographical Source and those Responsible for the Evolution

1. Who Invented Chess?

Chess was invented by migratory people through India in earliest relatable form and developed through the Middle East and Northern Europe before becoming the game that we recognize today in Spain around 1475 with the introduction of 2-Square pawns, En Passant and Castling.

2. Who Created Chess?

The modern game of chess that we recognize today was created by Medievil Europeans based on its prior existence as Shatranj in Persia and Chaturanga in its earliest form in India. So chess was the creation of evolution from an original Indian game modernized by Northern Spaniards as far we can tell.

3. Where was Chess Invented?

Whilst Chaturanga is the ancient birthplace of the original game, the modern game we know and play today, chess was invented in the Valencian region of Spain around 1475. Given the Muslims attempted to invade Alicante in 1331 and The Reconquista ended in 1492 we might be able to narrow it down to the Alicante area.

In The Beginning

There is much debate as to when Chess was first invented, and indeed if it would even be recognizable as the game of chess we know today although there is good evidence to suggest that ‘Chaturanga‘ is the very first iteration of the chess game we all play today.

Through much debate and years of research, it is arguably decided that the game of chess may go back as far as, and appearing no later than the 6th century in India.

Chaturanga

There is evidence that the Indian Chaturanga had its’ earliest references from around the 6th century although there is an argument that it is much older. What we can be relatively certain of is that around this time is cited as the earliest origins of the game we call chess today.

The 8×8 board may have been used elsewhere, and indeed, it was not a chequered board in early references, although the markings were added manually for the purpose of the game.

In Persia and in Arabic the game was known as Shatranj, and indeed, the modern game of chess as we know it, is known by that name today.

Shatranj

An old form of chess, still played today the earliest references found date to the 7th Century (c.620 AD) and is mentioned again some 400 years later in 1010.

It is very different today than its predecessor Chaturanga to be almost unrelated, in relation to modern chess, we find horses, the elephant (modern bishop), Chariot, and foot soldiers.

‘Check’ was first introduced here as a warning that the King was under direct attack. In the earlier version, the King could be captured to complete the game, whereas the rules of not being able to move into or left in a ‘check’ position removed the capture but could dictate a game was at its end with ‘checkmate’

As Islam spread across the world, it was only natural that we should see it appear in Southern Europe and specifically Spain and Al-Andalus. A region that covers the great majority of what is Spain today. Al-Andalus is also the origin of the Andalusian region of Southern Spain, which was the last stronghold of the Muslims or moors as they are referred to in the area.

So, let’s head off to the sunny Costas

Southern Europe

As chess developed in India so it migrated to Persia and was embraced by the Muslim world who moved through and conquered much of Southern Europe and Spain into the bargain.

Here is almost certainly the place where chess transformed into the game that we know today with some significant changes including:

  • The power of the queen to move as she does today after being a ‘weak’ piece in the game.
  • The addition of the rule for a pawn to make a two-square advance on it’s initial move
  • The addition of the ‘en-passant‘ rule

There is little doubt that these changes and the evolution of chess with the modern moves and rules came about in the Valencian region. Something widely agreed upon by chess historians.

I’ll not be going in-depth on how these dates were arrived at, for the research has already been done, the evidence abound, albeit in dozens of different places that work as a puzzle tougher than any we would find on our chessboard, and far better-qualified chess historians pieced it together and written about it.

Suffice to say, we can be sure that these changes and the invention of modern chess came sometime between 1450 and 1500 in Valencia in Spain – Quite a coincidence given I am currently writing this from the last vestige of the moors in Southern Spain and Andalusia!

Summary

So in answer to the question of who invented ‘modern’ chess, it depends on what we consider modern.

Yes, the vast majority of the game as we know it was in place by around 1500, although castling was not introduced for around another 120 years, so modern chess could have been invented in 1620 by that marker.

But then again, it could be argued and would be vociferously over the year by none other than Bobby Fischer that the modern game has changed in terms of the style in which is it played or ‘memorized’ as he would have it in the past 5 decades.

Indeed, the emergence and development of more and more intelligent chess engines has forced the style of play to something that would have been unrecognizable some 500 years ago, or indeed even as recently as 100.

The game itself, in its current form, and in terms of the symbolization of the pieces we use and rules is at least 500 years old, the origins of chess, probably a further 1000 years on top of that.

We have already many years of evidence that AI and chess engines are too good for grandmasters. New rules and ways to play vs computers have already begun to appear and there are now chess engine tournaments!

What would the ancients ever think of that!!

So chess may yet evolve further in the next 100 or even 500 years, should man be around to witness it, and some AI system in Silicon Valley will be cited with maybe some credit for the invention of the modern chess game’ in centuries to come.

“Chess masters used to come to computer chess tournaments to laugh. Now they come to watch. Soon they will come to learn.”

Monty Newborn – 1977

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