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The story of Chess: Background information when reading The Chess Machine

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The Chess Machine

A Novel

by Robert Lohr

The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr X
The Chess Machine by Robert Lohr
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2007, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 352 pages

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About this Book

The story of Chess

This article relates to The Chess Machine

Print Review

Chess is thought to have originated in northern India or Afghanistan. The earliest written references are from around 600 AD but there is some evidence that the game could have existed as early as 100 AD. Interest in chess spread along the trade routes from India, with differentvariations found in different countries, such as Shogi in Japan and Xiangqi in China.

The variation known to Europeans and Americans today (Western Chess or International Chess) traveled through Iran to Italy and Spain with the Moors in the early 11th century, and from there to Scandinavia and Iceland with sea-faring "Vikings". By the early 15th century, chess was well established across Europe.

The six different chess pieces represent a cross section of medieval life:

  • The pawns are the serfs - in the majority but easily sacrificed.
  • The knights represent the professional soldiers, they are more important than pawns but less important than the other pieces.
  • The bishops represent the church, a rich and powerful force in medieval Europe.
  • Originally, the rook symbolized a chariot (the Persian word for chariot is rokh), but in the West the rook has come to represent a fortified castle (perhaps rokh was interpreted as rocca when the game arrived in Italy - rocca meaning fortress)
  • The queen is the most powerful piece on the board representing a medieval queen's powerful but precarious position - capable of playing games of intrigue at court to exert her power but ultimately vulnerable to the king's will.
  • The king is the most important, but not the most powerful. In medieval times, the surrender of the king meant the loss of the kingdom to the invading army; thus it was to everyone's advantage to protect the king.

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Chess Machine. It originally ran in August 2007 and has been updated for the September 2008 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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