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History of Chess

People have been playing chess for more than 1500 years. Invented in India in the 6th century CE, its earliest known form was called chaturanga. The pieces originally represented the military units common in warfare at that time: infantry, cavalry, elephants, chariots, a general, and a king. The game spread from India to Persia in the 7th century and then westward to the wider Muslim world following the Islamic conquest of Persia. Islamic influence then spread the game to southern Europe, reaching western Europe by about 1000 CE. An example of an early European chess set is the Isle of Lewis chessmen.

As chess spread through the Islamic world and then Europe, its rules were modified and pieces were renamed. The modern rules of chess emerged in Italy and Spain by the dawn of the 15th century. Authors began publishing books on chess, and works by chess masters such as Luis Ramierez de Lucena, Ruy Lopez de Segura, and Gioachino Greco influenced the development of the study of chess that persists to this day.

Modern competitive play began in the second half of the 19th century, and early European tournaments featured Romantic masters like Howard Staunton, Paul Morphy, and Adolf Andersson. Jaques of London designed the classic Staunton pattern set around this time, which is still widely in use to this day. The first world chess championship was contested in 1886, with Wilhelm Steinitz emerging victorious over Johannes Zuckertort.

In the 20th century, chess competition became a worldwide affair. The international chess federation, FIDE, was founded in 1924, and it began to administer the world chess championship in 1948. Many strong players contested the world championship, with legends like Mikhail Botvinnik, Mikhail Tal, Bobby Fischer, and Garry Kasparov emerging as victors.

Since 2000, the defining feature of chess is the wide adoption of computer analysis to aid top players in perfecting their games. Computer chess programs originated in the 1970s, and since Deep Blue’s victory over Kasparov in their second match in 1997, players have relied on computer analysis to help them gain an edge over the competition. Online chess competition has also exploded in popularity in recent years, with millions of competitors participating at all skill levels, across the world.