Chess Facts


Early Origins: The earliest version of the game of Chess (based on archeological evidences and recorded history) was called Chatur-Anga and originated in India (also known as “Bharat”), around 2,000 years back, during the “Gupta Empire” - the golden age of India. The name is also referred to as a battle formation in the Indian epic Maha-Bharata (composed around 5,000 years back).

The Original Name: The name chatur-aṅga (translation in ancient Sanskrit language: Chatur = Four and anga = arm), can be described as four divisions (of the military): infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry. The pieces were designed as such in very artistic way out of wood, stone or metal, and the game was taught to all princes, kings and warriors for developing tactical and strategic warfare skills. Chatur-Anga was essentially a battle-simulation game involving tactical and strategic aspects in the development of the board and trapping the opposing king. Chatur-Anga was designed for an Ashtāpada (Sanskrit for "having eight feet", i.e. an 8×8 squared board). The King was called Raja, the Queen was Mantri (or minister), the Knight was Ashv, Rook was Ratha (or chariot), Pawn was Padati (or foot soldier) and so on based on the military divisions in those days.

Journey From India to Europe and Far East: From India, the game spread to Persia in around 600 AD. Persia (modern day Iran) was a very influential country following the Zorastrian religion), and Chatur-Anga gained popularity as a household game. The original name Chatur-Anga became Chatrang.

After the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was introduced in the Middle-Eastern countries and subsequently spread to Southern Europe. This is when the name Chatrang evolved to Shatranj, as the Arabic languages do not emphasize ch and ng sounds.

In Europe, chess evolved into roughly its current form in the 15th century. From the late 15th century to the 1880s, the game format was predominantly based more on quick, tactical maneuvers rather than long-term strategic planning. In Europe, the name changed based on regional dialects and languages e.g. Axedrez in Spain, Xadrez in Portuguese, Zatrikion in Greek, Scacchi in Italian, Schach in German, Schack in Swedish and Shakhmaty in Russian.

Buddhist pilgrims, Silk Road traders and others carried it to the Far East countries like China, Korea and Thailand.

Modern Chess: In the late 19th century, modern chess tournament play began, and the first 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 (FIDE). The Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation is an international organization that connects the various national chess federations around the world and acts as the governing body of international chess competition. FIDE was founded in Paris, France, in 1924. Its motto is Gens una sumus, Latin for "We are one people".

Popularity: Chess players make up one of the largest communities in the world: 605 million adults play chess regularly. Chess is taught as a subject in many schools in India and Russia. Chess is played at least once a year by 15% Americans, 70% Indians, 43% Russians, 23% Germans and 12% British people.

Chess and Academics: There have been various studies worldwide since many decades that summarize the contribution of Chess towards academic progress.

  • improves academic performance by improving the cognitive abilities, rational thinking and reasoning
  • brings out latent abilities that have not been reached by traditional educational means
  • promotes logical thinking, instills a sense of self‑confidence and self‑worth, and improves communication and pattern recognition skills
  • teaches the values of hard work, concentration, objectivity, and commitment
  • improves “future problem solving” skills and time management