The Chinese Emperor Wen-Ti (541-604) of the Sui dynasty executed two foreign pre-chess players after learning that one of the pieces was called “Emperor.” He was upset that his title of Emperor could be associated with a mere game and forbade the game. Chinese chess is played on a board 9 squares by 8 and the pieces move on the intersections of the lines rather than the squares, so that the actual playing area is 10 by 9. One of the pieces as a cannon, unknown anywhere else. Chess was not listed as a competitive sport in China until 1956. The Chess Association of China was formed in 1962. It didn’t have its first championship tournament until 1974. China joined FIDE, the world chess federation, in 1975. The first international tournament ever held in China was in 1980. The Chinese Chess Association was founded in 1986.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), in his poem The Book of the Duchesse, written in 1369, described the invention of chess to Attulus (269-197 BC), the King of Pergamon. A poet asks a knight (the man in black, the Black Knight) the nature of his grief. The knight replies that he played a game of chess with a lady and lost his queen and was checkmated. Chaucer may have had only a slight knowledge of chess.
Up until the early 20th century, it was mandatory to announce a check. Up until the late 19th century, it was mandatory to say ‘check to the queen’ or ‘garde’ when she was attacked. At one time, if the king and another piece were simultaneously attacked by a piece, it was customary to announce the fact by saying check to both pieces. Up until the early 19th century, an unannounced check could be ignored. Before 1495, the rook was the most powerful piece. At that time the term check-rook was used for a move that checked the king and attacked the rook at the same time. In early Sanskrit chess, the king could be captured, ending the game. The Persians introduced the idea of warning that the king was under attack to avoid an early and accidental end of the game. Later, the Persians introduced the rule that the king could not move into check or be left in check.
The first chessboard of alternating light and dark squares appear in Europe in 1090. Up until the late 19th century, the chess boards in Africa were of a single color, simply divided into squares.
The Cracow Poem (De Lud’r Scaccorwn) is a Latin poem in a manuscript dated 1422 in the Jagellonne Library in Cracow, Poland. The poem attributes the invention of chess to Ulysses. It was one of the first manuscripts that stated that stalemate was a draw.
Chess is mentioned as being played in Cuba in the 16th century. The first Cuban chess championship was held in 1860 and won by Felix Sicre. In 1952 there was an international tournament in Cuba. During the event, there was a revolution in Cuba. The President who sponsored the tournament was deposed. The Mexican entrants were recalled by their government. Finally, the Cuban champion, Quesada, playing in the event died of a heart attack on March 14, 1952. In 1965 Cuba linked up to the Marshall Chess Club in New York by telex to allow Fischer to play in the Capablanca Memorial tournament being held in Havana. Each game lasted up to seven hours. After the event, Cuba had to pay the bill of over $10,000. Dr JoseRaul Capablanca, son of the late World Champion, transmitted the moves in Havana.
The first newspaper chess column was that in the Liverpool Mercury, which first appeared on July 9, 1813 and ended in August 1814. The chess diagrams were printed without shaded squares. In November 1823, the weekly medical journal Lancet started adding a few chess problems (but no diagrams) to its magazine. One of the oldest chess columns was that of the Illustrated London News, which first appeared on June 25, 1842 and edited by Howard Staunton. The news magazine was published weekly until 1971. Publication ended in 2003. The first American chess column appeared in 1845 in the New York Spirit of the Times.
In 1851 the world checker champion was A. Anderson. In 1851, the world chess champion was A. Anderssen. Newell Banks was the only American master of checkers and chess. He could play 10 games of chess, 10 games of checkers, and a game of billiards simultaneously.
The first known intercollegiate chess team match occurred on July 2, 1859 between Amherst and Williams colleges. They also played the first college baseball game the day before. Amherst won the chess match and the baseball game (73 to 32 in 26 innings), both played at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The first international tournament restricted to college students was held in Liverpool, England in 1952. The first official college student Olympiad chess tournament was held in Oslo in 1954.
In September 1863, the Dunedin Chess Club was the first chess club formed in New Zealand. The New Zealand Chess Championship was first conducted in 1879. New Zealand has had an annual chess championship tournament since 1892. New Zealand was one of the earliest countries to make use of telegraphic interclub chess as a method of play. Ortvin Sarapu (1924-1999) won the New Zealand championship 20 times between 1952 and 1990.
Cook is a composition term for an alternative key not intended by the composer. Emanuel Lasker said that the term was named after Eugene Beauharnais Cook (1830-1915) of Hoboken, New Jersey in the 19th century who was so expert a solver, and found 2nd or more solutions to so many problems, that his name came to signify the act. He was the foremost American chess problemist of his day. His father was a general. He graduated from Princeton first in his class. He had one of the largest collections of chess books and magazines in the United States. He composed 655 chess problems during his lifetime. The term “cook” may have originated from Joseph Kling (1811-1876), a famous study composer.
The U.S. Open in chess started in 1900 (held in Excelsior, Minnesota and won by Louis Uedemann). It is one of the earliest U.S. Opens and was designed as a late summer vacation for chess players. The U.S. Open in tennis started in 1881. The U.S. Open in golf started in 1895. The U.S. Open in surfing started in 1959. The U.S. Open in bowling started in 1971. The U.S. Open in poker started in 1996.
In 1912, the Spanish civil engineer and mathematician Leonardo Torres y Quevedo (1852-1936) created an analog computer that could play a simple endgame of chess (pictured). He dubbed the chess automaton El Ajedrecista (The Chessplayer). It was able to automatically play a king and rook endgame against king from any position, without any human intervention. It is considered the world’s first computer game. Mechanical arms moved the pieces until 1920, when he used electromagnets under the chess board to move the pieces.
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) achieved the title of national chess master of France in 1925. In 1935, the International Correspondence Chess Federation held a 4-year correspondence tournament. It was won by Duchamp without a loss of any game. He was the first International Correspondence Chess Olympiad Champion. Duchamp designed a pocket chess set, but he could not market it.
In 1942, Ehrhardt Post (1881-1947), Chief Executive of the Nazi chess federation, intended to bring together the 6 strongest players of Germany and the occupied and neutral European countries in an international tournament at Salzburg, Austria. He was able to get Alekhine, Paul Keres, Paul Schmidt, Efim Bogoljubov, and Gosta Stoltz. Max Euwe was invited, but he withdrew due to “illness” (Euwe refused to play because Alekhine was invited). Euwe was replaced by Klaus Junge. Alekhine won the event with 7.5 out of 10. No wartime tournament book about Salzburg was ever published.
In February 1959, the Netherlands Antilles Chess Federation, part of the Royal Netherlands Chess Federation, wrote a letter to their Dutch colleagues requesting that they inform FIDE that the Netherlands Antilles Chess Federation wanted to host the 1962 Candidates Tournament. The bid was accepted and the event was held at Curacao. It was the first Candidates’ Tournament outside Europe. Fischer took 4th place and accused the four Soviets of cheating by agreeing to draws with each other and saving their energy to defeat Fischer. Fischer was probably right. Petrosian scored 17.5. Keres and Geller scored 17 (Keres won a playoff for 2nd). Fischer score 14. Korchnoi score 13.5. Keres finished in 2nd place in 4 consecutive Candidates tournaments, but never played a match for the championship title. After the Curacao tournament, FIDE changed the format of the Candidates Tournament to a series of knockout matches. While in Curacao, Fischer visited a brothel. When asked later how he enjoyed it, he replied, “Chess is better.”
Larry Christiansen (1956- ) became an International Grandmaster without ever being an International Master. In 1977 he was awarded the GM title. He is also the first junior high school player to win the National High School Championship in 1971.
There were two chess sets used in the 1972 World Chess Championship between Fischer and Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland. Game 3 of the match was played in an ante-room set aside for table tennis. The chess set was used only for game 3. Another chess set was used for all the other games. This set was auctioned in 2011 for $67,500 (plus buyers premium cost for a total price of $76,275) by the auction house Weiss Auctions. It had been given to Guomundur Thorarinsson, President of the Icelandic Chess Federation as a birthday present in 1972. The other chess set is in The Chess Memorial Museum in Reykjavik.
The purse from the 1986 Karpov-Kasparov world championship chess match ($900,000), held in London and Leningrad, was donated to the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident that occurred in 1986. It was later learned that much of the money was siphoned off by the Ministry of Industry to recover losses of factories. Later, the Soviet Peace Fund, under Karpov’s leadership, sponsored a telethon that raised nearly $5 million that went directly to the victims of Chernobyl
– Bill Wall