Chess in India
The earliest form of chess was called chaturanga, a game that flourished in the 6th century, in India. Chaturanga is the earliest known game to have two features that have been found in chess ever since – pieces having different powers on the board, and the fate of the game ultimately being decided by just one piece, the king. The original chess board was considered to be mathematically revolutionary, as the Wheat and chessboard problem was reported. The most common theory is that India’s development of both the chess board, and the game itself, was due to their mathematical developments involving the creation of the number zero. There have been a number of archaeological findings that are speculated to have come from other board games, distantly related to chess, which may have featured boards of 100 squares or more, although there is no solid evidence of rules of those games.
Originally chess was designed for an 8 by 8 squared board, which likely came from a backgammon style race game, although the “safe squares” have not been present in chess since its earliest forms.
There are theories that chess originally began as a dice game, where players would have to rely on both luck and skill in order to play. The theory was further expanded to suggest that gambling in chess games was commonplace, and would likely have been commonplace at drinking establishments. Currently evidence suggested by a number of scholars points towards religious objections being responsible for the removal of the dice and ending the proliferation of gambling, although this is disputed by a number of scholars.
There have been a number of variations on how the chess pieces can move over time, and originally in Indian versions the queen could only move one square diagonally, and bishops could only move two squares at a time. Another original Indian rule was that victory was possible by forcing an opponent into a stalemate situation, where winning by checkmate was impossible but the opponent had no pieces left but their king. This rule remained popular for a long period of time but was eventually lost as the game evolved throughout Europe and the Arab world.
Although some scholars suggest that the game’s original roots may be in China, it is widely accepted that the earliest recognisable versions of chess come from India.