Today, chess is a game that has taken the fancy of many people across the world, with master players competing from all major nations.

Do you know that chess originated in India as the game called chaturanga which later came to be known as shatranj?

Chaturanga developed in the Gupta Empire in India around the 6th century AD. In the 7th century, it was adopted as shatranj in Sassanid Persia, which in turn was the form of chess brought to late-medieval Europe.

Literally meaning four divisions, chaturanga is a name that comes from a battle formation mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata, referring to four divisions of an army, namely elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry. An ancient battle formation, akshauhini, is like the setup of chaturanga. This is represented by the pieces evolved into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively.

The exact rules of chaturanga are unknown. Chess historians suppose that the game had similar rules to those of its successor shatranj. In particular, there is uncertainty as to the moves of the Gaja (elephant).

Chess spread throughout the world and many variants of the game soon began taking shape. Buddhist pilgrims, Silk Road traders and others carried it to the Far East where it was transformed and assimilated into a game often played on the intersection of the lines of the board rather than within the squares. Chaturanga reached Europe through Persia, the Byzantine empire and the expanding Arabian empire. Muslims carried chess to North Africa, Sicily, and Iberia by the 10th century.

The first modern chess tournament was held in London in 1851 and won, surprisingly, by a German - Adolf Anderssen - who was relatively unknown at the time.


Find out about the story of chess in India.

To Reflect Upon

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