Showing posts with label Chess. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chess. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Indian Chess Chaturanga

Photo: Wikimedia
Chess, as well all know, is a recreational and competitive sport played between two players.

Nowadays, it is sometimes referred to as international chess or Western chess, which is actually used to distinguish it from its predecessors and other variants. More so, chess is one of the world’s most popular games, played by millions of people in clubs, online, tournaments and informally.

However, where did chess actually began? Who were the first people ever to invent this intellectual sport and what was its original purpose? The chess game was thought to have originated in India or Afghanistan before 600 A.D. However, there are several and unverified claims stating that the game existed as
early as 100 A.D.

The Chaturanga

The chess game has been attributed to the Indians by both the Arabs and the Persian people. However, the main origin of the sport has been lost in antiquity. Chess in Old Persian and Arabic are "chatrang" and "shatranj" respectively. Both of these terms are derived from the Sanskrit word "Chaturanga". Literally, the word Chaturanga means the army of four divisions, constituting the cavalry, infantry, elephant, and chariots, which are now being respectively represented by the knight, pawn, bishop, and rook.

Aside from chess, Chaturanga is also presumed to be the common origin of the Japanese shogi, the Thai makruk, the Chinese xiangqi, and the Korean janggi. The game was played since the early 6th century or probably earlier, hence it is believed to be the most common and oldest version of chess.

As previously mentioned, Chaturanga consists of the cavalry, chariots, elephants, and infantry, which reflects the four divisions of the army in ancient India. These are additional units besides the king and his general or counselor in the center. The Infantry is represented by the line of advancing pawns. Located near the center of the army are war elephants. The horse, with a flanking horse move, is represented by the mounted cavalry and the chariots or ships, which move hastily and in a linear fashion.

Chaturanga was originally played in an eight-by-eight un-checkered board, also known as the Ashtapada. Additionally, the board has markers that have meanings
still unknown today. However, it is known that these special markers are not related to Chaturanga and were rather drawn only by tradition. Murray, a renowned chess historian, speculated that the board was also used for other dice-type games, in which the markers it contains had meanings.

The Rules of Chaturanga

The exact rules of Chaturanga are yet to be known. However, several chess historians believe that the game has the similar rules to Shatranj, which is its direct descendant. By using the rules of Shatranj, the movements of the Chaturanga pieces can be mapped out.

The Raja or King moves like the King in modern chess. The Senapati or General, also known as the Mantri or Counselor, moves diagonally, occupying only a single square. Like the Rook in modern chess, the Ratha or Chariot moves on straight lines either horizontally or vertically.

As for the Gaja or Elephant, there are three possible moves that the piece makes, such as two squares diagonally, one square diagonally or forward, two squares orthogonally. 

The Horse of Ashva moves like the Knight. Foot soldiers or the Pedati or Bhata are similar to the pawns of modern chess.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Chinese Chess

Some serious thinking going in this game of Xiangqi (Chinese chess) - Photo: Flickr
The Xiangqi falls under the same family as the Chaturanga, Shogi, Janggi and Western chess. This is a two-player chess game that originated in China and is commonly known as the Chinese chess.

Xiangqi is one of the most popular board games in the world. Features unique to the game is the movement of the pao or cannon piece, the rule prohibiting the generals or chess kings from directly facing each other and the place and river features that restrict the movement of some pieces.

History of Xiangqi

The game has a long history through the accurate origin has not been definitely confirmed. However, earliest indications reveal that Xiangqi may have been played during the 4th century B.C. by the Lord of Mengchang, Tian Wen. 

The word Xiangqi can mean "figure game", which can be treated as the "constellation game". The boards used for the game is also called the "heavenly river", which may mean the Milky Way. More so, the early versions of the game have been based on the movements of the objects in the sky.

During the Song Dynasty, the game took three forms. One of the forms consisted of thirty-two pieces, which was played on a board consisting of nine horizontal and nine vertical lines. Additionally, the popular board used during those days was the one without the river borderline.

When the Qing Dynasty entered, the economic and cultural progress gave way to the new stage of
Xiangqi. There are different schools of players and circles that came into prominence. Along with the
popularity of the game, a number of manuals and books regarding the techniques of playing the game were also published. These publications played a vital role in popularizing Xiangqi and improving the techniques used in modern times.

Rules of Xiangqi

The board used in Xiangqi is nine lines wide and ten lines long. The pieces are played on the intersections or points. Files are the term used for the vertical lines, while ranks are for the horizontal lines. It is also possible to play Xiangqi in a standard chess set but with few substitutions.

Two players control pieces located on either side of the river. The pieces are also painted in red, while
the other player’s in black. The rules regarding who moves first are varied throughout history and also from one part of Chine to another. There are books stating that the black moves first though others indicate that the red should move first. More so, there are other books referring to the two sides as north and south.

The General is the equivalent of the King used in Western chess. Much like the modern chess, when the General is threatened by an enemy piece, it is "in check". Additionally, it can be checkmated when it is unable to escape a check from an opponent.

The Guard or Advisor is the equivalent of the Queen since most of their powers are similar to that of the Western chess piece. The War Elephant or Minister move two points diagonally and cannot cross rivers, thus they usually serve as defensive pieces.

The Horse or Cavalry begins the game next to the elephants and moves one point horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The Chariot or Rook can move at any distance either horizontally or vertically. The movement of the Cannon or Catapult is similar to the chariot but can capture by jumping at one piece over its target. Lastly, The Private or Soldier can move and capture by advancing one point similar to the pawns.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Legendary CHESS Greats

Michael Botvinnik - Photo: Wikimedia
A game is not going to be memorable without its respectable and great players. Over the course of time, chess has produced some of the brightest minds in board games. The discovery of these players was all thanks to several international events organized by the chess society. Several rankings are even used to determine the quality and standing of the players, which made them even more popular to both those who play chess and those who simply admire the game.

The Rankings and Titles of Chess Players

Initiated by the FIDE, the best players are awarded specific titles. Firstly, the Grandmaster, also known as the International Grandmaster, is usually awarded to world-class masters of chess. This title, apart from the World Champion, is the highest title that a chess player can achieve. However, before FIDE gives this title to a player, he must have a rating of at least 2,500 at one time in the Elo chess rating. More so, the player must also have three favorable results in competitions involving other Grandmasters, including those masters from countries apart from the applicant’s.

Next is the International Master. With the minimum rating of 2,400, the International Master has the same conditions as the Grand Master and is also less demanding. The FIDE Master is usually gained by players who have achieved a FIDE Rating of equal to or more than 2,300. The CM or Candidate Master, on the other hand, is awarded to those who have a FIDE rating of at least 2,200.

These titles are open to both men and women. There are also separate women-only titles, like the Woman Grandmaster, available.

Composers and solvers of chess problems are also awarded International titles. Additionally, national chess organizations can also award titles generally to advanced players, who are still under the level required for international titles.

Some of the Best Chess Players of All Time

Probably one of the greatest natural talents of all time, Capablanca was sometimes extremely lazy and refused to read chess textbooks. Still, he made considerable contributions to the opening theory. He managed to score 318 wins, 249 draws and 34 losses in matches and tournaments played between 1909 and 1939. Capablanca was known for his ability to accurately and instantly evaluate chess positions. Additionally, he liked to control the position and focus on elements, which he felt were necessary to gain victory.

Considered as the greatest tactician of all time, Kasparov was the world champion title holder for 15 years. He held the title from 1985 to 2000, when he was beaten by Kramnik. However, he dominated major tournaments from the beginning of his reign as world champion until 2001. He was known to have the ability to see everything in all positions. Moreover, he was also exuberant and had a photographic memory.

Botvinnik is the only player to hold the world title on three separate occasions. He was also a scientist, which is a profession that usually showed through his play style. The style used by Botvinnik was to make closed positions by flank maneuvers and movements.

Steinitz is known for his many bizarre chess positions, which made him an unpredictable and dynamic adversary. It was also believed that over the course of twenty years, he stood higher above his contemporaries than any other masters. He has the best tournament record up to his defeat in the world championship event in 1894. His greatest asset in chess games was his flexibility as a master of
tactical and positional strategies.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

CHESS Rules Then and Now

The exact origins of chess are still unclear though others believe that the game was based on the Indian Chaturanga, which literally means "four" and "arm".

An example of early-style Staunton Chess Set
An example of early-style Staunton Chess Set (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The ancient "chess" game used pieces that are slightly similar to modern chess, as well as movements. However, the rules of such a game are yet to be clarified.

In every game there are rules and chess in not an exception. In fact, there are several rules that
govern the competitive and recreational game. However, the question really is, where did the rules came from and how were they developed?

During the 16th century, the rules of modern chess took form in Italy. Since then, the rules of the game have evolved continuously. Going back centuries in the past, before the modern rules even took form in Italy, chess was played very slowly, with some games lasting for several days. There are other variations of the rules that began to change the shape of the game during the 1300s. The most notable, though originally unpopular, change in the rules was the ability of the pawn to move two squares during the first move instead of one.

After 1475 A.D., there are new modifications in the rules that further led to the evolution of the game. For instance, the queen was introduced and made a powerful new piece. This eventually led to the additional value attached to the previously considered minor tactic called the pawn promotion.

In Chaturanga, the war elephant has also evolved into the bishop, thus providing more range. The noticeable changes in the rules also gave way to the rise of figures that are "unwarlike". Eventually, chess moved closer to the court and ordinary household due to the departure of pure military symbolism to the game, which was noticeably prevalent in India and Persia.

Rise of the Modern Chess Rules

Specifically during the Middle Ages, a new set of rules for the game had emerged. Within this principle, both the rook and the king acquired the privilege to castle, which is a variation of the move, called Castling. Since the pawns were given the chance to move two squares during the first move, the en passant rule was consequential. More so, the pawns gained the capability to be promoted to a higher rank if they were able to reach the eighth rank.

Aside from those rules, there are other three guidelines that were introduced, which eventually
changed through the years. Firstly, there was the stalemate rule that forever changed the outcome of
chess games several times. Secondly, the threefold repetition was also added. Lastly, the fifty move rule was also added, in which a draw can be claimed if there has been no evident pawn movement and capture of any piece during the last fifty numbers of moves.

Since then, the rules of the chess game have been slightly altered until the early 19th century, during
which the game reached its current form. Nowadays, the fundamental chess rules are widely accepted among both international and national chess governing bodies, like the USCF or the United States Chess Federation and the FIDE or the World Chess Federation.

However, even if the rules of the chess game has evolved, the basic objective of the game remains the
same - to threaten the opponent’s most valuable piece, the king, with a checkmate.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Brief Look on the History of CHESS

Chess is a competitive game normally played between two players. It is sometimes called the nternational or Western chess. The recent form of the game emerged in the southern part of Europe during the second half of the fifteenth century. Nowadays, the chess is one of the world’s most popular games.

English: A large chess game inside Enoch Pratt...
A large chess game inside Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, MD, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Humble Beginnings

The game of Chess has been attributed both by the Arabs and the Persian people to the Indians. Chess then spread throughout the world and several variants of chess soon began taking form. Chess was introduced to the Near East from India and eventually became the part of a courtly and princely education of the Persian nobility. It is also known that the Silk Road traders, Buddhist pilgrims and others carried the game to the Far East where it was assimilated and transformed into a game played on the intersection of lines of the board rather than within the squares.

The game Chaturanga reached Europe through the Byzantine and Arabian empire, and Persia. By the tenth century, the Muslims carried the chess game to Sicily, North Africa and Spain.

Later on, chess was extensively developed in Europe during the late fifteenth century. Fortunately, the
game survived several series of prohibitions and sanctions by the Christian Church.

When the game arrived in Europe it attained a social value and seen as a prestigious pastime related with high culture and nobility. This status of the game explained the exquisite and expensively made
chessboards during the medieval era. The popularity of the game in the Western society peaked during the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.

Eventually, chess was incorporated into the knightly lifestyle in Europe. In fact, Peter Alfonsi mentioned in one of his books that chess is one the seven skills required by an individual to be a good knight. Also, the game became a subject of art during the period. There are several monarchs, like Queen Margaret of England who symbolized the position of chess in the royal art treasures through jasper and crystal chess sets.

Rise of Modern Chess

During the years 1834 and 1851, cutthroat chess became noticeable through the London Chess tournaments, which also made concern regarding the time taken by players to move their pieces. It was realized that the players normally took hours to analyze the moves and one almost took nearly two hours and twenty minutes to think over a single move during the tournament.

Fortunately, the development of speed chess was seen during the following years, where the most popular variant is the five-minute chess. There is also a final variant that allowed a player who made the predetermined amount of moves in the agreed time to receive extra time budget for his or her next moves.

It was not until 1861 when the first time limits, through the use of sandglasses, were used in a tournament at Bristol. Later on, the sandglasses were replaced by pendulums. During the turn of the 19th century, a tiny latch, also known as flag, helped settle the arguments over the players exceeding time limit turn.

Also in the 19th century, position analysis became popular. There is even a Russian composer with the name of Vladimir Korolkov who created the "Excelsior", which stated that the White side wins only by creating six consecutive captures by a pawn. Later, there are several analysts who emerged, including Vasily Smyslov, Jan Timman, and Mikhail Botvinnik.