An Illustrated History of Chess_________________9____
has seen countless variations throughout its evolution. It has
been expanded to enormous boards, pieces have been added, new
moves have been devised and new identities have been given to
great European variant, Courier Chess lasted for some 600 years
— longer than modern chess has existed so far.
Here is a
link to more information about this fascinating variant:
Courier chess, a very popular chess variant
through north-central Euorpe, was played from the late 12th through
early 19th century. It featured a piece — the courier
— which moved like our modern bishop.
possibly the earliest known chess set, from Afrasiab, Samarqand,
said to date from the 7th century.
a typical ancient chess set, which would have been recognized
in Persia, Africa, or Scandinavia
chess sets would have been played by the same rules —
the rules of ancient chess.
the chess which came to Europe from Asia, passing from one culture
to another, remained virtually unchanged for almost a millenium.
Even as pieces changed shape and identity, the rules of the game
remained remarkably stable.
somehow, a new chess took hold. The best evidence places the change
in northern Italy and Spain, right at the end of the 15th century.
The first known printed occurance of the new rules is dated 1497
— but that manuscript seems to indicate that the new game
was already generally known.
These pieces, of the later
Scandinavian design, circa 12th century, would also have been
played using the old rules.
This famous chess set, from mid
15th century Italy, probably began its life playing the ancient
chess, but later learned the rules of
the new game.
The set came with a very elaborate board.
was called the new chess, the queen's chess, or
chess of the mad queen, and it spread like wildfire
throughout Europe. Within one generation the chess which had
endured centuries and had covered half of the known world was
eclipsed in most of Europe by the new game. The old game became
a relic, an anachronism remembered by monks and academics —
those who clung to the old chess literature which was suddenly
were the new rules? Most astonishing as that the queen had unprecedented
new power, dominating the board with the ability to move any number
of spaces forward, backward, left, right or diagonally.
The bishop, at the same time, was given the power to move along
the complete diagonal, and the pawn was given the power to take
two spaces in its first move. Castling and en passant capture
followed quickly, and a new chess was born.
The great American statesman, Ben Franklin, playing chess as we
know it, about 280 years after the new rules took effect. He is
playing here on pieces of the Régence design.
sometimes referred to as western chess,
is now over 500 years old. It has spread with colonial Europe,
and continues to spread, like the French and English languages,
taking over most of the remaining pockets of unique chess cultures.
Only a few chess variants, including those described in this
web site, have firmly held their ground, not allowing western
chess to re-write their chess traditions.
That could be the end of the story, but does evolution stop
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