Monday, June 23, 2008

Chess History

Chess originated in India, where its early form in the 6th century was chaturanga, which translates as "four divisions of the military" – infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots, represented respectively by pawn, knight, bishop, and rook. In Persia around 600 the name became shatranj and the rules were developed further. Shatranj was taken up by the Muslim world after the Islamic conquest of Persia, with the pieces largely retaining their Persian names. In Spanish "shatranj" was rendered as ajedrez, in Portuguese as xadrez, and in Greek as zatrikion, but in the rest of Europe it was replaced by versions of the Persian shāh ("king").

Knights Templar playing chess, Libro de los juegos, 1283.The game reached Western Europe and Russia by at least three routes, the earliest being in the 9th century. By the year 1000 it had spread throughout Europe.[13] Introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors in the 10th century, it was described in a famous 13th century manuscript covering shatranj, backgammon, and dice named the Libro de los juegos.

Another theory, championed by David H. Li, contends that chess arose from the game xiangqi, or at least a predecessor thereof, existing in China since the 2nd century BC.

Origins of the modern game (1450–1850)

Original Staunton chess pieces by Nathaniel Cook from 1849Around 1200, rules of shatranj started to be modified in southern Europe, and around 1475, several major changes rendered the game essentially as it is known today. These modern rules for the basic moves had been adopted in Italy[15] and in Spain. Pawns gained the option of advancing two squares on their first move, while bishops and queens acquired their modern abilities. This made the queen the most powerful piece; consequently modern chess was referred to as "Queen's Chess" or "Mad Queen Chess". These new rules quickly spread throughout western Europe, with the exception of the rules about stalemate, which were finalized in the early nineteenth century.

This was also the time when chess started to develop a corpus of theory. The oldest preserved printed chess book, Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez (Repetition of Love and the Art of Playing Chess) by Spanish churchman Luis Ramirez de Lucena was published in Salamanca in 1497. Lucena and later masters like Portuguese Pedro Damiano, Italians Giovanni Leonardo Di Bona, Giulio Cesare Polerio and Gioachino Greco or Spanish bishop Ruy López de Segura developed elements of openings and started to analyze simple endgames.

François-André Danican Philidor, eighteenth century French chess MasterIn the eighteenth century the center of European chess life moved from the Southern European countries to France. The two most important French masters were François-André Danican Philidor, a musician by profession, who discovered the importance of pawns for chess strategy, and later Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais who won a famous series of matches with the British master Alexander McDonnell in 1834.[19] Centers of chess life in this period were coffee houses in big European cities like Café de la Régence in Paris and Simpson's Divan in London.

As the nineteenth century progressed, chess organization developed quickly. Many chess clubs, chess books and chess journals appeared. There were correspondence matches between cities; for example the London Chess Club played against the Edinburgh Chess Club in 1824. Chess problems became a regular part of nineteenth century newspapers; Bernhard Horwitz, Josef Kling and Samuel Loyd composed some of the most influential problems. In 1843, von der Lasa published his and Bilguer's Handbuch des Schachspiels (Handbook of Chess), the first comprehensive manual of chess theory.

Birth of a sport (1850–1945)

The "Immortal Game", Anderssen-Kieseritzky, 1851The first modern chess tournament was held in London in 1851 and won, surprisingly, by German Adolf Anderssen, relatively unknown at the time. Anderssen was hailed as the leading chess master and his brilliant, energetic — but from today's viewpoint strategically shallow — attacking style became typical for the time. Sparkling games like Anderssen's Immortal game or Morphy's Opera game were regarded as the highest possible summit of the chess art.

Deeper insight into the nature of chess came with two younger players. American Paul Morphy, an extraordinary chess prodigy, won against all important competitors, including Anderssen, during his short chess career between 1857 and 1863. Morphy's success stemmed from a combination of brilliant attacks and sound strategy; he intuitively knew how to prepare attacks.Prague-born Wilhelm Steinitz later described how to avoid weaknesses in one's own position and how to create and exploit such weaknesses in the opponent's position.[26] In addition to his theoretical achievements, Steinitz founded an important tradition: his triumph over the leading German master Johannes Zukertort in 1886 is regarded as the first official World Chess Championship. Steinitz lost his crown in 1894 to a much younger German mathematician Emanuel Lasker, who maintained this title for 27 years, the longest tenure of all World Champions.

Wilhelm Steinitz, the first World Chess ChampionIt took a prodigy from Cuba, José Raúl Capablanca (World champion 1921–27), who loved simple positions and endgames, to end the German-speaking dominance in chess; he was undefeated in tournament play for eight years until 1924. His successor was Russian-French Alexander Alekhine, a strong attacking player, who died as the World champion in 1946, having briefly lost the title to Dutch player Max Euwe in 1935 and regaining it two years later.[28]

Between the world wars, chess was revolutionized by the new theoretical school of so-called hypermodernists like Aron Nimzowitsch and Richard Réti. They advocated controlling the center of the board with distant pieces rather than with pawns, inviting opponents to occupy the center with pawns which become objects of attack.

Since the end of 19th century, the number of annually held master tournaments and matches quickly grew. Some sources state that in 1914 the title of chess grandmaster was first formally conferred by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia to Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch and Marshall, but this is a disputed claim. This tradition was continued by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), founded in 1924 in Paris. In 1927, Women's World Chess Championship was established; the first to hold it was Czech-English master Vera Menchik.

Post-war era (1945 and later)

World Champions José Raúl Capablanca (left) and Emanuel Lasker in 1925After the death of Alekhine, a new World Champion was sought in a tournament of elite players ruled by FIDE, who have, since then, controlled the title. The winner of the 1948 tournament, Russian Mikhail Botvinnik, started an era of Soviet dominance in the chess world. Until the end of the Soviet Union, there was only one non-Soviet champion, American Bobby Fischer (champion 1972–1975).

In the previous informal system, the World Champion decided which challenger he would play for the title and the challenger was forced to seek sponsors for the match.[33] FIDE set up a new system of qualifying tournaments and matches. The world's strongest players were seeded into "Interzonal tournaments", where they were joined by players who had qualified from "Zonal tournaments". The leading finishers in these Interzonals would go on the "Candidates" stage, which was initially a tournament, later a series of knock-out matches. The winner of the Candidates would then play the reigning champion for the title. A champion defeated in a match had a right to play a rematch a year later. This system worked on a three-year cycle.

Current World Champion Viswanathan AnandThe next championship, the so-called Match of the Century, saw the first non-Soviet challenger since World War II, American Bobby Fischer, who defeated his Candidates opponents by unheard-of margins and clearly won the world championship match. In 1975, however, Fischer refused to defend his title against Soviet Anatoly Karpov when FIDE refused to meet his demands, and Karpov obtained the title by default. Karpov defended his title twice against Viktor Korchnoi and dominated the 1970s and early 1980s with a string of tournament successes.

Karpov's reign finally ended in 1985 at the hands of another Russian player, Garry Kasparov. Kasparov and Karpov contested five world title matches between 1984 and 1990; Karpov never won his title back.

In 1993, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short broke with FIDE to organize their own match for the title and formed a competing Professional Chess Association (PCA). From then until 2006, there were two simultaneous World Champions and World Championships: the PCA or Classical champion extending the Steinitzian tradition in which the current champion plays a challenger in a series of many games; the other following FIDE's new format of many players competing in a tournament to determine the champion. Kasparov lost his Classical title in 2000 to Vladimir Kramnik of Russia.

The FIDE World Chess Championship 2006 reunified the titles, when Kramnik beat the FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov and became the undisputed World Chess Champion. In September 2007, Viswanathan Anand became the next champion by winning a championship tournament.