Origins of Chess

News Aug 26, 2021

Games, by definition, is a structured form of playful, often collaborative, play, and in some cases used as a teaching tool. Games are quite different from choreography, which are typically carried out for monetary gain, and from architecture, which are primarily an expressive expression of political or aesthetic elements. Games, to be truly understood, must have some goal, a logic, and a set of outcomes.


One of the earliest games to capture the imagination and the attention of the public were card games like Chess and Monopoly. These popular board games involved abstract thinking, complicated mathematics, and real-world legal issues. Just as these games became popular, computer games involving abstract thought, calculation, strategy, and simulation also became popular. Computer games involving war battles, financial markets, and scientific breakthroughs all contributed to the maturity of our society and our economy. Computer games also influenced by video games, such as Street Fighter and Space Invaders, and introduced the concept of player versus player competition in the world of computer games.

A second major influence on board games was the introduction of the game theory by the French game designers Jean Monet and Patrice Vergna. Their concept of game theory argued that a game can be considered a controlled system with a fixed pattern of interaction, where each player acts rationally to achieve an outcome, rather than acting based on emotion or impulse. Following this logic, players may use predetermined strategies to achieve a common goal, rather than just act on instinct or “rage.” Their ideas laid the groundwork for the later development of strategic board games, including Stratego, Risk, and Chess.

The third major influence on board games, after the above, was the introduction of dice to the market by the English dice manufacturer and inventor Anthony van der Leeuw. The Dice system combined randomness with a more logical system of distributing points based on the probabilities of certain results. This was an immediate success, as it was much more predictable and easily controlled than previous methods. This was coupled by the manufacturing process of wooden beads and wooden coins that are used in most Dice games. The dice became the standard unit of measurement, replacing the old meters and pounds, that failed to satisfy the needs of players.

The fourth and final major influence is that of the great philosopher Kurt Goldstein. His contribution to the development of Chess is perhaps the best known. Although many of his contributions have been lost in translation, he did introduce a number of important ideas into the game that later shaped the development of Chess as we know it today. Among those ideas are the use of hidden information and the importance of pacing in a game. Much later, this concept would find its way into the programming of chess engines, where programmers attempted to recreate the effects of Goldstein’s ideas using computers. In fact, many online chess programs use parts of Goldstein’s work to create their games.

Although these five men’s works have all been widely discussed, the fifth man who played a major role in the birth of Chess is none other than Hector Price. Price was a French Quarter master, who invented many games that later came to be associated with Chess. Some of these games, such as the dominoes, are associated with the spread of the Black Death. Others, like the double-headed eagle, came from his knowledge of the proportions of forces in army composition. Regardless of which of these men contributed to the conception of Chess, the game that they brought to fruition is recognized as one of the most classic games in the history of the human civilization.