Just as chess is a difficult game to master, its origin is a difficult puzzle. We may never know the exact truth of its birth.
Chess has been played in many forms for centuries, through countless cultures and historic moments. Most historians believe it started in India, Persia, or China.
The form of chess, which arrived in Europe, was already being played in Persia some 1,350 years ago. The game became very popular in the Muslim world, and it was carried back, throughout Islam, across North Africa and eventually into Europe.
From its mysterious beginning, somewhere in the heart of Asia, chess spread east, west, north and south. In every area that chess reached, it developed local variations in rules and in forms of chessmen. Everywhere that chess went it met up with craftsmen who wanted to try their hands on the design of the pieces.
The game reached Western Europe and Russia by at least three routes in the 9th century. By the year 1000 it had spread throughout Europe. The game was developed extensively in Europe, and by the late 15th century, it had survived a series of prohibitions and Christian Church sanctions to almost take the shape of the modern game.
Modern history saw reliable reference works, competitive chess tournaments and exciting new variants which added to the game’s popularity, further bolstered by reliable timing mechanisms (first introduced in 1861), effective rules and charismatic players.
The modern form of chess pieces were designed by Nathanial Cook and advertised and promoted by Howard Staunton. The set became famous under the name Staunton chess set. It is the same name and design, which is used in today’s competitions. Howard Staunton was the principal organiser of the first international chess tournament in 1851, which was won by Adolf Anderssen of Germany. The first top-ranked American-born chess player was Paul Morphy, of Irish ancestry, who lived in the civil war era. He travelled to Europe in the 185O’s, beating all challengers, including Adolf Anderssen. However, the English champion of the time (Staunton) refused to play, so Morphy never became a world chess champion.
The first OFFICIAL championship chess tournament was played in 1866, also in London, with sand clocks to restrict the length of a game. Steinitz, a Czechoslovakian, won this tournament. He became the world’s first OFFICIAL chess champion, holding this title until 1894.
The title of Grandmaster is awarded to world-class chess players by the sport’s governing body F.I.D.E. It is the highest title a chess player can attain and is generally held for life.