by Christopher Steffen
As classic gift items and elegant decorative pieces, well-crafted chess sets have been passed from family members to relatives and friends for hundreds of years. One of the most popular games in the world, chess has a long history spanning across several continents. When pondering chess strategies or considering which chess set to buy, it's valuable to know more about the long tradition and history of chess.
Origins: The history of chess dates back to the sixth century in a game called chaturanga. Played during the Gupta Empire in India, this game would eventually spread to China, where it may have influenced the creation of another chess ancestor called xiangqi. It also spread to Iran, where it was incorporated into the courtly education of Persian nobles. With the expansion of the Muslim empire, chess made its way from Persia to Western Europe and Russia around 1000. With the Vikings, the game was brought to the Americas around 1100.
Development: The bishop's and the queen's moves have changed the most during the long history of chess. Both pieces were often limited to movements of only one square, but variations in different countries developed. Depending on the country, the bishop could move two squares and sometimes forward and backward. The queen could only move diagonally. Between 1475 and 1500, in either Spain, Portugal, France, or Italy, the queen and bishop's modern movements were incorporated. The chess game has maintained relatively consistent play since then.
Modern game: Though the earliest chess tournaments began appearing around the 13th century, the first official world championship did not occur until 1886 in London. The winner of this match was Wilhelm Steinitz. Both the Prague-born Steinitz and American Paul Morphy are considered chess prodigies and helped develop many of the early competitive strategies. One of the initial bodies created to award the title of world champion is the World Chess Federation (FIDE), created in Paris in 1924. The first American to win this title was Bobby Fischer in 1972. From 1993 to 2006, there were two simultaneous world champions after Garry Kasparov broke from FIDE to create the Professional Chess Association. In the FIDE World Chess Championship 2006, PCA-champion Vladimir Kramnik beat the FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov to unite the titles. The current world champion is Viswanathan Anand.
Man vs. computer: The end of the 20th century introduced a lot of interest in chess computer software. One of most important tournaments occurred in 1997 when IBM's Deep Blue defeated world champion Gary Kasparov, the first time a computer had defeated a world champion. In 2006, the humans lost again when world champion Vladimir Kramnik was defeated by Deep Fritz.