perhaps also the absence of any technical literature on
the game or records of its problems, has prevented its
development to any high degree of skill in the land
of its origin. There have been few strong players in
India, although some form of chessoften a four-
handed game, or a game played with the assistance of
dice as an element of luckis universal.
Persia, however, so far adopted the game that for many
years it was credited with having originated chess. It
has been played for hundreds of years, and is played
almost universally to-day in China, Japan, the Korea,
Malay and Sumatra, and the Moslem countries,
besides Europe and America.
Its coming to Europe seems to have been first by way
of Spain, where it was brought by Moslem con
querors, then to Italy from Byzantine sources.
Until 1500 (circa) the European and Moslem games
were almost identical, but the Moslem player was
always unwilling to modify the rules of play in any
way, whereas the European began at once to make
any changes which promised to give a better game. By
1600, therefore, the two styles of chess play were
Changes of nomenclature among the different pieces
had already appeared during the Persian adoption, but
in European hands they were carried much farther,
and as the chessmen received new identities, so their
shapes altered, and with the change of shape came very
often a modification of the rules of play.
For example, the placing of the pieces on the board
was first governed by the usual mode of disposing an
oriental army, where the elephants were always
assigned a position on the flank.
But in Europe, where the elephant was practically un
known, and the word "al-ffl" conveyed no meaning to
the player, the identity of this piece was presently con
fused with that of a Bishop (generally known at that
period by the title "Aufin"). In France the word was
subject to an alternative corruption by its association
with the title of Dauphin. It is easy to see how these
variations occurred, and it is equally easy, then, to
understand how the game which began by representing
a battle developed into a game representing a state.
The struggle throughout the whole of Europe of the
time between small state and small state, in which the
king's supporters, spiritual and temporal, took a part
and were rewarded for their fidelity, was quickly identi
fied with the intrigues and diplomatic manoeuvring of
the chess board.
The person of the Ferz, by natural connection in a
western country, became the queen; the change of sex
was made easy by the verbal corruption of Ferz into
"vierge," quickly disseminated through a French-
speaking world. The two words Ferz and Quene were
nevertheless interchangeable for a considerable time.
Chaucer, in his Book of the Duchesse, notes the diffi
culty of continuing play when the Quene is lost:
"My boldnesse is turned to shame
For false fortune hath played a game
At chesse with me.
At the chesse with me she gan to play
With her false draughts full divers
She stole on me and toke my fers
And whan I sawe my fers away
Alas I couth no longer play."
The chariot of the eastern army became the castle of the
western monarch. The horse became identified with
the only mounted soldier in the age of chivalrythe
With these changes of name, and changes of form, the
rules governing the disposition and moves of an army
no longer held their rigidity over the diplomacy of a
state. The position of the pieces and their moves were
modified to improve the game. It was in Europe, for
example, that the privilege of "castling" was first
Then, as at all times and in all countries, there were two
types of chessmen in use. For the "nobility and gentry
and crowned heads of Europe" cunning designers were
found to produce wonderfully realistic carvings of the
different "men." For the ordinary devotee with little
wealth a conventional set existed, in which the differ
ent pieces were distinguishable chiefly by differences in
height, although it is notable that in very many cases
some slight suggestion of a horse's head or the plume
of a knight's helmet was given to that particular piece.
The carved men were generally made in some precious
materialrock crystal, ivory, jasper, amber, ebony,
etc., and in connection with the morality of the game it
is odd to note how often a set of crystal chessmen was
bequeathed in the early Middle Ages to a monastery or
a famous shrine for its treasure. The most striking
instance is Cnut's bequest of crystal chessmen to Hyde
Abbey in Winchester.
Simultaneously, many fathers of the Church were
heard denouncing the game of chess as a licentious and
time-wasting indulgence. Among the Jewish fra
ternity it was also seriously debated whether chess
might or might not be played by the devout. By 1119,
at least, however, a favourable decision seems to have
been reached, for Rabbi Aben-Ezra "the Wise" wrote
a Hebrew poem on chess which was translated into
Latin, Spanish and German.
And this was followed in course of time by the