A long time ago before we started playing the well-known game of strategy, chess, we played checkers in our old neighbourhood as it was simpler to play. It was difficult to play chess initially as different pieces on the board have different modes of movement and also because there was no one to teach us the right way to play. Photo by Simón Arroyave.
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History of Chess
The game was born in ancient India where it is known as chaturanga which interestingly (and will be denied by Bahasa Melayu purists) was adapted in Bahasa Malaysia as catur.
The history of chess can be traced back nearly 1500 years to its earliest known predecessor, called chaturanga, in India; its prehistory is the subject of speculation. From India it spread to Persia.
Following the Arab invasion and conquest of Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world and subsequently spread to Spain and the rest of Southern Europe. The game evolved roughly into its current form by about 1500 CE.
“Romantic chess” was the predominant playing style from the late 18th century to the 1880s. Chess games of this period emphasized quick, tactical manoeuvres rather than long-term strategic planning.
The Romantic era of play was followed by the Scientific, Hypermodern, and New Dynamism eras. In the second half of the 19th century, modern chess tournament play began, and the first official World Chess Championship was held in 1886.
The 20th century saw great leaps forward in chess theory and the establishment of the World Chess Federation. In 1997, an IBM supercomputer beat Garry Kasparov, the then world chess champion, in the famous Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov match, ushering the game into an era of computer domination.
Since then, computer analysis – which originated in the 1970s with the first programmed chess games on the market – has contributed to much of the development in chess theory and has become an important part of preparation in professional human chess.
Later developments in the 21st century made the use of computer analysis far surpassing the ability of any human player accessible to the public. Online gaming, which first appeared in the mid-1990s, also became popular in the 21st century.
Video caption: We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of technology — and we must conquer those fears if we want to get the best out of humanity, says Garry Kasparov. One of the greatest chess players in history, Kasparov lost a memorable match to IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997. Now he shares his vision for a future where intelligent machines help us turn our grandest dreams into reality.
I seriously picked chess when I was in Form 4 when I decided to join the school’s chess club for two reasons – 1. This was a club that demanded the power of the mind more than the power of the muscles and 2. Two of my classmates had already joined the club earlier and often be free to play games with me during my free time.
But when I left school and moved on to another school for Form 6, I did not join the chess club but instead joined the school computer club where we often play games during the club meeting. Thus my knowledge did not improve thereafter until the game started to appear as downloadable Windows, Android (my choice is the one from AI Factory) and online games and I could play without any embarrassment with the computer.
Of course, we also have a proper tournament set at home so that we can play with each other without using the computer. We use to have a smaller magnetic travel version which we play when we are travelling (the kids would play the car) but after some of the pieces went missing and nowadays it is easier to play the game on the mobile phone, we discarded the travel version and stick to only the large set.
Playing with the computer was the way I managed to improve on the game as some of the computer game programs works with artificial intelligence as it remembers my previous openings and deploys a different strategy to win the game. I would highly recommend the online Lichess which is an open-source server that has every spectrum related to the game from lessons, puzzles, quick games and tournaments with players from all over the world.
Footnote: some of the puzzles in Lichess do not make sense as it gives points for losing key pieces which will be useful in the upcoming moves although other features such as bullet-quick games and games against the computer are good and seriously put one on their toes.
The scene from the 2020 Netflix drama series, The Queen’s Gambit where a young Beth Harmon takes on 12 male players at the same time and wins all of the game. Basically, after a long time, this drama series somehow rekindled our interest in the game.
Chess in Popular Media
There are plenty of good movies that have the game as the centre of the storyline but the one that I last saw and reignited my interest in the game would probably be the 2020 The Queen’s Gambit drama series over Netflix.
Another good chess-related movie that I saw is the 1993 movie, Searching For Bobby Fisher which is based on Joshua Waitzkinwhich sets an interesting premise – a young boy fascinated with the players in the public park and soon picks up the game to become a young prodigy in the game.
The standard layout when playing the online game – it is clean and easy to play especially for beginners and as I have learned as I am playing the computer, never underestimate it even though it may start at level 1. And some of the games even provide game analysis after you have completed the game. Image source: Chess.com
When I am not busy with project assignments, blogging and watching movies, playing Scrabble and Chess games on my mobile phone have helped to fight the boredom when being away far from home. The game is also a very good mental exercise as it forces one to think several steps ahead and mentally look at the various permutations that could take place.
When I was in Iran for a project, we will pass a shop that sells premium sets made from metal, glass or precious metal. The price of the set is not cheap but then it is of high quality and will make a good item to put on a table. It was very tempting to buy these kinds of decorative sets which are often sold in tourist spots but for day-to-day game playing, it is best to stick to the cheap one that is made from plastic.
My kids know how to play, thanks to us bringing the large box set when we go for our holidays and playing at night when we have nothing much to do. Just hope that they will continue to practice and play it so that they can sharpen their skills and who knows perhaps go on a wider spectrum of playing in professional tournaments.