"Morality" of Jacobus de Cessolis, in which the game
of chess was taken as the basis of the dissertation. This
was one of the most widely translated books of the day,
and the first to be printed in England on Caxton's press.
As a pendant to this might be mentioned the lurid
picture by an unknown artistunknown probably
because so tactless a moralist might have found the
consequences of plain-drawing inconvenientshowing
Death giving Checkmate to a king. 1
But on the whole, morality was on the side of chess.
The sport of kings is seldom visited with unduly violent
denunciations, and as early as the thirteenth century
the Margrave of Brandenburg, Otto IV 1266-1308) is
depicted in a MS. book playing chess with a lady. It
should also be noted that the strictest rules of decorum
could be relaxed in favour of the rules of chess. It was
permissible to be received in a lady's bedroom if a man
went there only to play chess.
The game, however, seems to have been one in which
passion was not unknown. Several murderous quarrels
are recorded as having been brought, quite literally, to
a head, with the aid of a chess board. For throughout
the Middle Ages this was a heavy affair of wood or
metal, often designed double, to combine two favourite
games, and decorated with a raised border suggestive
of a city wall.
Meanwhile, the wild Arabs contented themselves with
drawing squares on the ground and picking up stones of
different sizes and shapes for men. In Sumatra the
custom still holds to make new men for every game
a job which only takes about ten minutes. The pieces
are cut from a rod of bamboo or the midrib of a palm
leaf, to a conventional pattern in which slight differ
ences of shape alone distinguish "black" from "white."
In Malay, where the Shafi'ite school of Moslems holds
sway, it is forbidden to make a graven image of any
existing form, so that conventional shapes must always
be used. Chinese chessmen have often been mistaken
for bronze coins; the only identification is the name of