Chess - Its Origins And Development by Rick Hendershot
Chess is one of the world's great board games. For centuries chess players around the world have been mesmerized by its challenges, and its great masters have been revered as superstars of a different order -- superstars with brains.
** Origins and background of chess
Like many of our popular board games, such as checkers (draughts) and backgammon, chess originated sometime in the first millenium AD, somewhere along the Silk Road that ran between Europe, Egypt, India and the Orient. Most historians trace its origins back to northern India or Afganistan sometime around 600 AD.
As one might expect, there is a good deal of controversy among chess historians about both the date and place of the origin of chess. While some place its origins in China, the most common theory is that the version of chess we are familiar with evolved from a game played in northern India called ashtapada. This game used an 8x8 board (like ours), but had 4 players, and moves were determined by the throw of dice.
As some historians point out, the unique features of ashtapada, and its successor called chataranga, were deeply embedded in Indian culture of the time. The fact that it was a "four-handed" war game was consistent with the division of the country into many kingdoms. And the use of dice to determine moves was a reflection of the importance of Karma in Indian religious thought.
** Evolution into modern chess
The gradual appearance of different types of Indian military forces in the Indian board game known as chataranga -- elephants, chariots, cavalry and infantry -- was consistent with the transition of the game from a relatively simple "race" game to that of a war game.