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Who Invented Chess?

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Early forms of chess are dated to around the 6th century AD. (Image credit: Werner Münzker |

Can’t beat your twelve-year-old daughter at the game? You might at least impress her with a history lesson.

Not the oldest board game on record (the East Asian game go, at over 4000 years, is the likely winner), chess still outdates any Parker Brother’s pastime you could name. Early forms of chess originated in India around the 6th century AD. One ancestor was chaturanga, a popular four-player war game that prefigured several key aspects of modern chess. A form of chaturanga traveled to Persia, where the name of the "king" piece changed from the Sanskrit rajah to the Persian shah. From shah all European names for the game are derived. We receive the English words "chess" and "check" from the French descendant echec. (And "rook" descends from the Persian rukh, meaning either "chariot" or "boat.")

The Persians also introduced the notions of "check" and "checkmate," so thank them whenever little Suzie topples your king.

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