Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland (New Series)

Original Communications

Art. XIII.—The Origin and Early History of Chess

A. A. Macdonell

No game occupies so important a position in the history of the world as that of chess. It is not only at the present day, but has been for many centuries, the most cosmopolitan of pastimes; and though one of the oldest known to civilization, it is yet undoubtedly the most intellectual. Long familiar to all the countries of the East, it has also been played for hundreds of years throughout Europe, whence it has spread to the New World, and wherever else European culture has found a footing. A map indicating the diffusion of chess over the habitable globe would therefore show hardly any blanks. Probably no other pastime of any kind can claim so many periodicals devoted exclusively to its discussion; certainly no other has given rise to so extensive a literature. The influence of chess may be traced in the poetry of the Middle Ages, in the idioms of most modern European languages, in the science of arithmetic, and even in the art of heraldry. An investigation as to its origin, development, and early diffusion therefore forms a not unimportant chapter in the history of civilization.