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Read on to explore the history and origin of chess in India

History of Chess in India

The origin of chess can be traced back to the 6th century in India. During that time, the game was known as 'Chaturanga' and consisted of two essential features, which was later found in all chess variations - different pieces having different powers (not found in Checkers and Go) and victory in the game depended on the fate of one piece - the king of modern chess. The other chess pieces existing in the game are considered to be coming from other board games, which may have had boards of 100 squares or more.

While in Sanskrit the word 'Chaturanga' literally means 'having four limbs', in epic poetry its stands for 'army' - (the four parts are elephants, chariots, horsemen, foot soldiers). It is believed that the name essentially came from a battle formation mentioned, in the Indian epic - Mahabharata. The game of Chaturanga basically portrays the Indian military strategy of the past era. Though unverified, according to a former theory, chess started as a dice-chess, as some people used a dice to decide, which piece to move. Gambling and dice were two important aspects of the game, which were later removed, due to Hindu and Muslim religious objections.

According to the Arab scholar, Abu al-Hasan 'Ali al-Mas'udi, chess was primarily used as a tool for military strategy, mathematics, gambling and even astronomy in India and other parts of the world. Ivory was mainly used for producing chess and backgammon pieces. He also asserted the view that India introduced the game to Persia, along with the book Kelileh va Demneh, during the reign of emperor Nushirwan. The Persians subsequently created a more recognizable version of the game called Shatranj.

During the British Raj, chess received patronage of the princes of the erstwhile princely states and players like Mir Sultan Khan of Punjab excelled at the international level. Sultan Khan not only won the British chess championship in 1929, 1932 and 1933 but also represented Britain in three chess Olympiads. Post-independence, the All India Chess Federation was founded in 1951 and the first official National Chess Championship was held at Eluru (Andhra Pradesh). Initially, the National Chess Championship used to be held every alternate year but since 1971, it is being held every year.

Design & Features Of Earlier Chess Board
Coming to the features and design of the chess board, it was primarily designed for an ashtapada i.e. having eight feet. This can be more explicitly described as the 8X8 square board, which may have been earlier used for a backgammon-type race game. Ashtapada or the uncheckered 8X8 board served as the main board for playing the game of Chaturanga. However, apart from this, the other Indian boards employed were the 10X10 Dasapada and the 9X9 Saturankam. Traditionally, Indian chessboards often have X markings on some or all of squares a1 a4 a5 a8 d1 d4 d5 d8 e1 e4 e5 e8 h1 h4 h5 h8. The X marked squares can be defined as safe squares, as capturing was not allowed in a dice-driven backgammon-type race game played on the ashtapada, before chess was invented.

Early Chess Moves Of The Pieces