Chess History<br>by Edward Lasker

Here is an interesting chess history written in 1918 by the great Edward Lasker. This was included in his seminal work, "Chess and Checkers - The Way to Mastership".

The History of Chess

The game of Chess in the form in which it is played to-day is usually assumed to be of a much older date than can be proved with certainty by documents in our possession. The earliest reference to the game is contained in a Persian romance written about 600 A.D., which ascribes the origin of Chess to India. Many of the European Chess terms used in the Middle Ages which can be traced back to the Indian language also tend to prove that India is the mother country of the game.

We are, therefore, fairly safe in assuming that Chess is about 1300 years old. Of course we could go farther, considering that the Indian Chess must have been gradually developed from simpler board games. Indeed we know from a discovery in an Egyptian tomb built about 4000 B.C. that board games have been played as early as 6000 years ago; but we have no way of finding out their rules.

The game of Chess spread from India to Persia, Arabia and the other Moslem countries, and it was brought to Europe at the time of the Moorish invasion of Spain. It also reached the far East, and games similar to Chess still exist in Japan, China, Central and Northern Asia, the names and rules of which prove that they descended from the old Indian Chess.

In Europe Chess spread from Spain northward to France, Germany, England, Scandinavia and Iceland. It became known with extraordinary rapidity, although at first it was confined to the upper classes, the courts of the Kings and the nobility. In the course of time, when the dominance of the nobility declined and the inhabitants of the cities assumed the leading role in the life of people, the game of Chess spread to all classes of society and soon reached a popularity which no other game has ever equaled.

While in the early Middle Ages the game was played in Europe with the same rules as in the Orient, some innovations were introduced by the European players in the later Middle Ages which proved to be so great an improvement that within a hundred years they were generally adopted in all countries including the Orient. The reason for the changes was that in the old form of the game it took too long to get through the opening period. The new form, which dates from about 1500 A.D. and the characteristic feature of which is the enlarged power of Queen and Bishop, is our modern Chess, the rules of which are uniform throughout the civilized world.

In the Seventeenth Century Chess flourished mostly in Italy, which consequently produced the strongest players. Some of them traveled throughout Europe, challenging the best players of the other countries and for the most part emerging victorious. At that time Chess was in high esteem, especially at the courts of the kings who followed the example of Philip the Second of Spain in honoring the traveling masters and rewarding them liberally for their exhibition matches.

Towards the beginning of the Eighteenth Century the game reached a high stage of development in France, England and Germany. The most famous master of the time was the Frenchman, Andre Philidor, who for more than forty years easily maintained his supremacy over all players with whom he came in contact, and whose fame has since been equaled only by the American Champion, Paul Morphy, and by the German, Emanuel Lasker.

During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries the number of players who obtained international fame increased rapidly, and in 1851, due to the efforts of the English Champion Staunton, an international tournament was held in London to determine the championship of Europe. It was won by the German master Anderssen, who maintained his leading place for the following fifteen years, until he was beaten by the youthful Morphy. The latter, at twenty years of age, was the first American master to visit Europe and defeated in brilliant style all European masters whom he met.

Morphy withdrew from the game after his return to America and did not try to match himself with the Bohemian Steinitz, who in the meantime had beaten Anderssen, too, and who had come to America. Steinitz assumed the title of the World's Champion and defended it successfully against all competitors until 1894, when he was beaten by Emanuel Lasker, who is still World's Champion, having never lost a match.

The next aspirant for the World's Championship is the young Cuban, Jose Raoul Capablanca, who has proved to be superior to all masters except Lasker. He entered the arena of international tournaments at the age of twenty-two in San Sebastian, Spain, in 1911, and won the first prize in spite of the competition of nearly all of Europe's masters. In the last international tournament, which was held in Petrograd in 1914, he finished second, Emanuel Lasker winning first prize.

The present ranking of the professional Chess masters is about the following:

1. Emanuel Lasker, Berlin, World's Champion. 2. J. R. Capablanca, Havana, Pan-American Champion. 3. A. Rubinstein, Warsaw, Russian Champion. 4. K. Schlechter, Vienna, Austrian Champion. 5. Frank Marshall, New York, United States Champion. 6. R. Teichmann, Berlin. 7. A. Aljechin, Moscow.

Other players of international fame are the Germans, Tarrasch and Spielmann, the Austrians, Duras, Marocy and Vidmar, the Russians, Bernstein and Niemzowitsch, the Frenchman, Janowski and the Englishman, Burn. Up to the time of the outbreak of the war the leading Chess Clubs of the different countries arranged, as an annual feature, national and international tournaments, thus bringing the Chess players of all nationalities into close contact.

This internationalism of Chess is of great advantage to the Chess player who happens to be traveling in a foreign country. There are innumerable Chess Clubs spread all over the globe and the knowledge of the game is the only introduction a man needs to be hospitably received and to form desirable social and business connections.

It would be going beyond the limit of this summary of the history of Chess if I tried to give even an outline of the extremely interesting part Chess has played in French, English and German literature from the Middle Ages up to the present time. Suffice it to mention that Chess literature by far exceeds that of all other games combined. More than five thousand volumes on Chess have been written, and weekly or monthly magazines solely devoted to Chess are published in all countries, so that Chess has, so to speak, become an international, universal language.

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