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Chess Pieces • Chess History • Chess Glossary

outdoor chess board - laguna beach While people have been playing board games for 6,000, no one really knows exactly how the game of chess began.  While the roots of the game most likely go back much further, we can trace chess all the way back to 7th century India.

Simply put, chess is a game of war comprising two armies controlled by two separate players.  It is different from many other board games because there is no luck involved.  The outcome of the game is determined solely by the skill of the player.

Chess spread from India to Persia, and finally to the Arab world following the Arabian conquest in the 600s.  From there, it infiltrated into Europe, most likely via a variety of different trade routes.

antique chess board with pewter chess pieces By the early 1000s, chess was commonly played throughout Europe.  By the Middle Ages — between 1100 and 1450 — chess was Europe's most popular game among the ruling classes.

It was during the Renaissance period that the rules of chess evolved to resemble the ones used today.  The changes that were made to the rules of chess reflected outside life.  For example, until the 1450s the queen had limited powers, but she eventually became the most powerful piece on the chess board.  The new chess rules were finally standardized during the 16th century, with the arrival of the printing press.

chess pieces on chess board
Chess Pieces on a Chess Board

In America, founding father Benjamin Franklin was a chess aficionado; he actively promoted the game for the intellectual and social development that it inspires.  During the mid-19th century, New Orleans-born Paul Morphy was acknowledged as the best chess player of his time.  In the 1880s, chess became so popular that chess clubs, often located out of coffee houses, came into existence.  Many years would pass before another American, Bobby Fischer, rose to become a World Champion chess player, besting Boris Spassky in a 1972 chess match.  Today, chess is a competitive event as well as a game enjoyed by amateurs.  The world's best chess players compete for prizes and accolades.

Of course, in today's technologically advanced world it just makes sense that computerized versions of chess would crop up.  In the last two decades, programs that play chess have allowed chess enthusiasts to play against a machine and improve their game.


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