Middle Ages and Chess

By Bill Wall


The Middle Ages, or Medieval period, last from around 500 C.E. to 1500 C.E.  It was during this time that chess may have originated.  Here is a chronological look of chess through the Middle Ages.


In the 6th century,chaturanga, the earliest chess precursor, was created in the Punjab (India) during the Gupta Empire as a Hindu game.  It was played on an uncheckered 8x8 board called ashtapada, which had been around since 400 C.E.  It was adopted as shatranj in Sassanid Persia in the 7th century, which in turn was the form of chess brought to late-medieval Europe.  Chaturanga meant four arms and was a term for the ancient Indian army which consisted of four parts: infantry, chariots, cavalry, and elephants.


Under the reign of the Sassanid king Khosrau I (Chosroes, Anushirvan, Naushirawan, Nushirvan) (495-579), king of Persia from 531 to 579, chess was introduced from India.  It was Barzuyah (Burzuy) (531-579), Khosrau's physician, who went to India to collect copies of literature,  He and Buzurjmeher translated into Persian all the Sanskrit works, including chaturanga.  It is likely that chess was a gift to king Khosrau from an Indian king (possibly a Maukhari Dynasty king of Kannauj).


Around 600 C.E., an epic Persian poem called the Karnamak-i-Artakhshatr-i-Papakan (The records of Ardashir, son of Papak) was written in the Pahlavi language and contains the first reference of Chaturanga.  It is a book of fables and legends of Shah Ardashir I, who ruled from 224-241.  The line reads, “Artakhshir did this, and by God’s help he became doughtier and more skilled than them all in ball-play, in horsemanship, in chaturang, in hunting and in all other accomplishments.”  The middle-Persian romance implies that the game of chaturang was fairly known in Persia at this time.  The Pahlavi word chatrang takes its roots from the Sanskrit word Chaturanga.


Another Pahlawi romance, called Chatrang-namak (The book of chatrang), or Matigan-i-chatrang, was written around 650 CE.  It is the first piece of literature that actually names the chess (chatrang) pieces: shah, rukh, farzin, pil, and piyadak. (source: A History of Chess by Murray, p. 151).


Allusions to chess begin to appear in Sanskrit literature in the 7th century.  Banabhatta (Bana) was a 7th century Sanskrit prose writer and poet of India.  Several possible references to chess have been discovered in his works.  Bana’s Harshacharitha, written around 625 C.E., contains the earliest reference to the name chaturanga.  Harshacharitha was a historical romance of the Indian Emperor Harshavardhana (ruled 607-647), commonly known as Harsha.  Harsha, also known as Sriharsha, was the supreme ruler of Northern India.


Bana wrote, “Under the monarch (Harsha), only the bees quarreled to collect the dew; the only feet cut off were those of measurements, and only from ashtabada one could learn how to draw up a chaturanga, there was no cutting-off of the four limbs of condemned criminals.”


In 0644, the Muslim armies defeated and conquered Persia under the caliphate Umar (Omar) bin al-Khattab (579-644).  The prophet Muhammad died in 632 CE and probably never heard of the existence of chatrang or shatranj.

There was no letter c or ch or g in Arabic (the Arabic j could be pronounced like a hard g), so the Middle Persian word for chatrang was changed to shatranj.


In 656, Ali ibn Abu Talib (600-661), cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, became caliph and disapproved chess for Muslims.  He considered shatranj as  the gambling game of non Arabs.  His main objection was to the carved chessmen and not to the game itself.  Sunnite Muslims use chessmen of conventional pattern. (Murray, p. 191).  


Talib’s son, Husain ibn Ali, is recorded to have played shatranj with his children, and also to have watched a game and to have prompted the players. (Murray p. 191).


Chess became popular in the Muslim world after Islamic theologians decided that chess playing was not contrary to the teachings of Muhammad.


Abu Hurairah (603-681) a companion of Muhammad and the most prolific narrator of hadith, played shatranj Other companions, such as abdallah ibn Abbas and Absall bin Zubair are stated to have been seen playing shatranj.  (Murray, p. 191).


In 665, Sa'id ibn Jubair (665-714), was born in Africa.  He later became an  Islamic judge.  According to ibn Taimiya, Jubair gave the flowing reason for playing chess.  He had reason to believe that al-Hajaj was going to appoint him judge.  Fearing that the patronage ofal-Hajaj would be detrimental to his piety, he took up chess in order to disqualify himself. Jubair was the first person to be mentioned by name that played chess blindfolded.  Jubair turned his back on the board and asked his slave to make the moves for him.  Later, al-Hajjaj put him to death for taking part in a revolt. (Murray, p. 192)


From 685 to 705, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (646-705) reigned as the 5th Umayyad Caliph.  He played shatranj and was the earliest Umayyad calph associated with chess. (Murray, p. 193)


In 710 al-Walid I (668-715), an Umayyad caliph, killed a shatranj player when the player purposely played bad against him.  Walid was playing shatranj with Abdallah ibn Muawiyah when a Syrian visitor was announced.  The caliph ordered a slave to cover over the board, and the visitor was allowed to enter.  Walid then discovered the visitor was not knowledgeable in Muslim religion, so he uncovered the board and resumed his game.  (Murray, p. 193 and Four Essays on Art and Literature in Islam by Rosenthal, p. 86)


In 712 Seville was conquered by Arabs.  Moorish invaders brought chess (shatranj) to Iberia.


The Arabic poet al-Farazdaq (641-730) mentioned pawns of chess in one of his poems.  He wrote, “…I keep you from your inheritance and from the royal crown so that, hindered by my arm, you remain a Pawn (baidaq) among the Pawns (bayadiq).  (Murray, p. 194)


Muhammad ibn Abdallah al-Mahdi (744-785) was the third Abbasid Caliph.  He disapproved of shatranj.  In 780 he wrote a letter to the people of Mecca to stop playin shatranj, along with nard, playing with dice, and archery.  He considered these vanities that lead astray and from the remembrance of Allah.  However, chess was played in his court. (Murray, p. 195)


In 776 the poet Abu Hafs Omar ibn Abdalaziz was also known as ash-Shatranji, the chessplayer.


In 780 Moorish invaders of Spain introduce chess to Western Europe.


The earliest known chess piece dates to about 790.


Harun al-Rashid (763-809) was the fifth Abbasid caliph.  He was a chess (shatranj) player who granted good chess players pensions. In 802, Harun sent Charlemagne a variety of presents, including chessmen.  Harun also wrote a letter to Nicephorus of Byzantium (died in 811) in 802 mentioning shatranj.  (Murray, p. 195) 


In 805 Ash-shafi'i, a famous Muslim lawyer, played chess blindfold.


Harun’s eldest son and successor, Muhammad ibn Harun al-Amin (787-813), the sixth Abbasid Caliph, was also a chess player.  Al-Amin and the musician Ishaq al-Mausili were playing chess after Ishaq wager his cloak on the game.  Al-Amin won, but hesitated to take Ishaq’s cloak until he came up with the idea of giving up his own cloak as a gift.  During the siege in Baghdad in 813, when the city was on the verge of capture, a messenger entered to warn the caliph.  Al-Amin did not want to be interrupted as he was about to checkmate his opponent.  Al-Amin was later captured by his brother, al-Ma’mun, during the siege in Baghdad and beheaded.  (Murray, p. 197).


Abdullah Al-Ma’mun (786-833), the Abbasid caliph who reigned from 813 to 833, was also a chess player and frustrated that he could not master the game.  It was Ma’mun’s opinion that chess was more than a game, and that to play it was excellent training for the mind.  He always insisted that his opponent play his best, otherwise, he would refuse to play with the opponent ever again.


In 818 the strongest chess players were Jabir al-Kufi, Rabrab, and Abu'n-Na'am.


In 820 chess was introduced in Russia through the Caspian-Volga trade route.


In 821 chess was introduced by Ziriab (Abul Hassan Ali ben Nafi) in Cordoba, Spain.  He was a Persian musician who lived in Baghdad.


In 840 al-Aldi was considered the best chessplayer in the world.  It was only towards the end of his life that a rival, ar-Razi, appeared.


He may have also composed the oldest known chess problem. (see http://www.chess.com/forum/view/more-puzzles/alaldis-chess-problem)

Al-Adli (800-870) was considered one of the strongest chess (shatranj) players (aliyat) of the 9th century. He was patronized by several caliphs in the Arab world (al-Wathiq who came in power in 842 and al-Mutawakkil who came in power in 847).

He was at the height of his fame around 840 A.D. He was defeated in a match around 848 by ar-Razi in front of Caliph al-Mutawakkil of Baghdad who reigned from 847 until he was murdered by Turks in 861.

Al-Adli wrote a Kitab ash-shatranj (Book of Chess) and a book on nard (Kitab an-nard). His books have long been lost, but some of his problems, endgames, and opening systems have survived. His book contained information on the older game of Chaturanga [Sanskrit], the earlier Indian form of chess.

His name indicates that he came from some part of the eastern Roman Empire, possibly Turkey.

al-Adli was the first person to classify chessplayers. He recognized five classes of players. The highest contained the aliyat or grandees. The second class was called the mutaqaribat or proximes. There were three other classes.

al-Adli was the first to categorize openings into positions called tabiya (plural: tabiyat). Some of the opening names were: the goat-peg, Pharoaoh's stones, the old women, the wing or flank opening, the torrent, the sheikh's opening, the strongly built opening, the sword, the slave's banner, the army opening, and the shoulder.

al-Adli was the first to compile chess problems, called mansubat. He divided his collection into won endings, drawn endings, and undecided games.

al-Adli also showed how to use the chessboard as a kind of abacus for purposes of calculation. The calculation was to be carried out by the help of small stones that were heaped up on the square as necessary. This is a parallel use of the chessboard to that which gave a name to the Exchequer in Norman England.

al Adli may have been the first to use coordinates to record positions and moves in chess. He may have also been the first to discover the knights tour. His book contained diagrams which represent a knight's tour on a chessboard.

al-Adli described a variation of chess played with dice. This is the earliest recorded instance of the use of dice to determine the moves of a form of chess.

Some of the older legends on the invention of chess comes from al-Adli.

In the first legend, an Indian monarch named Hashran appeals to an Indian sage, Qaflan, to devise a game that would symbolize man's dependence upon destiny and fate, and depict the way in which these forces work by means of man's environment. The philosopher invented the game of nard, played with dice. Hashran was delighted with the game and introduced it in India, where it became extremely popular. At a later date there arose a king named Balhait who was advised by a Brahman that nard was contrary to his religion. The king accordingly planned to replace nard by a new game, that should demonstrate the value of prudence, diligence, thrift, and knowledge. His Brahman friend undertook the task, and invented chess, explaining its name of shatranj by the Persian hashat-ranj, in which hashat means eight and ranj means side. It was made on the model of war, because war is the most effective school for teaching the value of administration, decision, prudence, caution, arrangement, strategy, circumspection, vigor, force, endurance, and bravery. Balhait was charmed with the game, and did his best to induce his subjects to adopt it in the place of nard.

In the second legend, the game is invented to assist in the military education of a young prince who was incompetent to lead his armies in war owing to his want of experience. Chess is alleged to have given the necessary training in tactics to convert him into an efficient commander.

In the third legend, chess is invented for a king named Shahram by the sage Sassa of Dahir.

In 848 ar-Razi defeated al-Aldi in the presence of caliph al-Mutawakki (822-861).


Al-Aldi and ar-Razi both wrote chess manuscripts.  There are large portions of al-Adli’s work in various manuscripts, but only a few problems and endgames has survived of ar-Razi’s work.  Ar-Razi wrote Latif fi ‘sh-shatranj (Elegance in Chess).


Around 850 Haravijaya (Victory of Siva) by Ratnakara of Kaskmir was written.  It had severa chess references, including the Indian name of the pieces: patti (pawns), ashwa (horses - knights), ratha (chariots - rooks), and dvipa (elephants.  (Murray, p. 53)


In 866 the caliph Abdullah Ibn al-Mutazz (847-869) was playing shatranj when the head of his chief rival, al-Musta’in, was brought to him.  Al-Mutazz paid no attention to the news (or the head) until he had finished his game.


In 875 the 1st reference to knight's tour (turaga) in the Sanskrit Kavyalankara (ornaments of poetry) by Rudrata was recorded.


In 880 Abu-Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya as-Suli (al Suli) was born (880-946).  He was an author of a book on shatranj.


By 880 coordinate notation used in the Arab countries.


In 892 al-Mu’tadid bi-llah (854-902) came to power as the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad.  He was a chessplayer. However, when he discovered that his servants were playing chess rather than doing their duties, they were given several lashes with the whip.  (Murray, p. 199 and Gambling in Islam by Rosenthal, 1975, p. 145).


Around 900, chess was introduced to the Greeks and called zatrikion.


In the 10th century, chessplayers in India were waging their fingers in chess matches.


In 902, al-Muktafi (878-908) came to power as the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad.  He took into a favor a shatranj player named al-Mawardi.  Then al-Muktafi heard about another shatranj player named Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya as-Suli (880-946), so the caliph arranged a match between the two shatranj players.  Around 905, as-Suli defeated al-Mawardi in front of the caliph to become the so-called world shatranj (chess) champion.  After al-Mawardi lost, the caliph said to him, “Your rose water has turned to piss.” (Murray, p. 199).


Besides chess, al-Suli was noted for his poetry and scholarship.  He wrote a chronicle detailing the reigns of the caliphs al-Radi and al-Mattlaqi.  Al-Suli remained the favorite shatranj player under succeeding caliphs al-Muqtadir and ar-Radi.  Al-Suli’s shatranj-playing ability, including his blindfold play, became legendary and he is still considered one of the best Arab players of all time.  The endgames of some of his matches are still in existence. 


One of his most prominent achievements is his two-volume book, Kitab Ash-Shatranj (Book of Chess), which was the first scientific book ever written on chess strategy.  It contained information on common chess openings, standard problems in middle game, and annotated end games. It also contains the first known description of the knight's tour problem. Many later European writers based their work on modern chess on al-Suli's work.


In later years, al-Suli fell in disfavor with the ruler.  Al-Suli went into exile at Basra in 940, where he spent the rest of his life in poverty.


In 910, al-lajlaj (the stammerer) was a pupil of al-Suli, and was one of the first to publish chess openings and chess problems.  He wrote Kitab mansubat ash-shatranj (Book of chess positions or problems).  The original has been lost, but copies were made and exist from the 12th century.


In 920, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (839-923) wrote Kitab akhbar ar-rusul wal-muluk (History of the Prophets and Kings), mentioning shatranj.


In 936, Genadio de Astorga, Bishop of Astorga, Spain died.  He was the first Christian saint related with chess.  Saint Genadio built the church-monastery of Santiago, Spain around the year 900.  Chess pieces dated to the early 10th century were found in the ruins of this monastery.  His disciples referred to Genadio’s devotion to chess as a help for concentration and as “an approximation to God.” Some of his ivory chess pieces, known as the Mozareb chess pieces, are preserved in the Mozarabic monastery in Leon, Spain. The pieces are considered even today by the local folklore as miraculous talismans.


In 938, crystal chess pieces were donated to the San Rosendo Monastery in Celanova, Galacia, Spain. The monastery is located in the mountains of Orense. Recently, the chess pieces have been transferred to the Diocesan Museum in Barcelona.


Around 950, al-Masudi (896-956), an Arab historian (the Herodotus of the Arabs) and geographer, wrote on the history of chess in India and Byzantine chess.


In 965, al-Hakam II (915-976), second Caliph of Cordoba, started to collect 400,000 books and manuscripts. Some of the Arabic manuscripts were on chess.


Abu Mansur Muhammad ibn Ahmad Daqiqi Tusi (935-980) was an early Persian poet and mentioned chess in some of his couplets.  These couplets were lated included in the epic poem Shahnameh (Book of Kings) by Ferdowsi.



In 988, Abu’l-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq an-Nadim (died 998) wrote Kitab al-Fihrist (Book of Catalogs), a general bibliography.  It included an entire section on the topic of chess.  Chess authors mentioned included Al-Aldi, Ar-Razi, As-Suli, Al-Lajlaj, and B. Aliqlidsi.


The Versus de scachis is a 98-line Medieval Latin poem describing the game and its rules.  It is found on two manuscripts from the monastery in Einsiedeln, Switzerland.  A copy of the poem has been given the estimated date of 997 CE, making it the earliest known reference to chess in a European text. 


By 1000, chess wass widely known throughout Europe.


Around 1000, a series of documents appeared in the county of Urgell (Urgel), Spain (Catalan county) mentioning chess.

1000       Chess reaches Russia from Byzantium and from the the Vikings.

Around 1000, the daughter of Otto II (955-983), Holy Roman Emperor, was "won" from a chess match.


In 1005, chess was banned in Egypt by al-Hakim (985-1021). All chess sets were burned.


On July 28, 1008, Ermengol (or Armengol) (974-1010), the Count of Urgell, wrote his will.  His will and testament includes the first attested mention of chess in Western Europe.  He bequeathed his chess pieces to the Convent of St. Giles near Nimes, France.  In 1981, citizens of La Seu d’Urgell commemorated this piece of history by erecting a monument in the town recording the words of the bequest.


In 1011, Hakim Abu ‘I-Qasim Ferdowsi Tusi (935-1020), or Firdawsi, completed the epic Shahnameh or Book of Kings.  Written in Persian, it is the world’s longest epic poetry created by a single poet, with 60,000 verses.  It has many references to chess with a tale of chess being sent to Iran from India.


In 1013, chess was brought to England with the Danish invasion.


In 1027, Canute (995-1035), King of Denmark and England, learned to play chess after a pilgrimage to Rome.


In 1030, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973-1048), or al-Biruni, wrote of an Indian form of 4-handed chess and dice called Chaturaji (four kings).  He described the movement of the pawns and pieces in the Indian form and in Arabic chess.  Al-Biruni was a Muslim scholar and is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era.


Around 1030, the earliest reference of chess in the German literature, the Latin epic Ruodlieb, appeared.  The Ruodlieb is a fragmentary romance in Latin verse written by an unknown German poet. The poem describes the fortunes of a young knight who goes to Africa and wins money playing chess.


In 1033, chess pieces were donated by Sancho II of Navarra to the church of San Millan de la Cogolla.


In 1045, the priest from Urgell called Seniofredo donated a chess set to the church of San Julian de Bar.


On October 22, 1045, testimony was drawn up by Ramon Levita of Badalona, bequeathing his chess set to his brother.


In 1055, a chess poem, Ludus scacorum or Elgia de Ludo Scachorum, was written.


In 1058, Countess Ermessinda, widow of Count Ramon Borell (972-1017) willed her chess set to the abbey of San Egidio.


In December 1058, Petrus Damiani (1007-1073), or Pietro Damiano, cardinal bishop of Ostia, wrote to Gerard de Bourgogne (990-1061), who later became Pope Nicholas II (1059-1061), and to the archdeacon Hildebrand of Sovana (1020-1085), the future Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), complaining of a bishop in Florence playing chess in an inn during the night.  In 1061, he addressed another letter to pope-elect Alexander II (pope from 1061 to 1073) complaining of bishops playing chess.


In 1060, William the Conqueror (1027-1087), in his younger years, supposedly broke a chessboard over the head of the dauphin of France during a chess game in which he got checkmated.


Bu 1066, chess was being played in Britain.


In 1068, a testament of Arsenda, wife of Arnau de Tost, stated that her chess board remained with her husband.


In 1070, Muhammad ibn Abbad al-Mutamid (1040-1095), Moorish king and ruler of Seville, was regarded as a chess patron.


In 1071, Arnau Mir de Tost (1000-1072), Catalan nobleman of Urgell, listed his 13 chess sets as part of his assets prior to him going on a pilgrimage


In 1078, the poet Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Ammar defeated King Alfonso VI (1040-1109) of Castile in a game of chess.


In 1080, Normans named their financial departments exchequer, after the chess board and its 64 squares, used for calculating.


In 1081, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Commenus (1048-1118) came to power.  He played chess (zakitron) with his court.


In 1087, Henry I (1068-1135) played chess in Paris against Louis, son of Philip I.


In 1089, Jayyash led a revolt in Zabid, Yemen, after disguising himself as Indian chessplayer.


Around 1090, boards with alternating light and dark squares were introduced.


In 1093, chess is condemned by the eastern orthodox church.


In 1097, the first French reference to chess was made by Fouche de Chartes and Robert de St. Remi, who mentioned chess as a pastime.


In 1098, the Turkish General Kerbogha was playing chess during the siege of Antioch in the first Crusade, publicly demonstrating his composure during the battle.


Around 1100, Abu 'l-Fath Ahmad as-Sinjari wrote a chess manuscript containing 287 mansubat (chess problems). (source: The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper and Whyld)


Around 1100, the French Carolingian epic, Song of Roland, was written, mentioning chess as being played by the nobles to amuse themselves.


In 1105, Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) wrote the Rubaiyat, using a chess game as a theme.


In 1106, chess was included in a list of knightly accomplishments by Peter Alfonsi(1062-1110).


In 1106, Henry I (1068-1135) allowed his brother Robert Curthouse, Duke of Normandy, to play chess while imprisoned for 28 years.

In 1106, the Exchequer at Westminster was created. It referenced the scaccarium or chessboard.


In 1107, a chess problem was created in the mosaic floor of the Saint Savino Church in Piacenza.

In 1110, John Zonaras, Eastern Church monk, excommunicated chessplayers.  The first ecclesiastical denunciation of chess on the part of the Eastern Church was voiced by Zonaras. It was during his retirement as a monk to the monastery of Mt. Athos that he wrote his commentary on the canons of the Eastern Church. The early list of rules known as the Apostolic Canons required both clergy and laity to give up the use of dice (Canon 50). Zonaras wanted chess to also be included for clergy and laity to give up. Zonaras, commenting on Canon 50, wrote, "Because there are some of the Bishops and clergy who depart from virtue and play chess (zatikron) or dice or drink to excess, the Rule commands that such shall cease to do so or be excluded; and if a Bishop or elder or deacon or subdeacon or reader or singer do not cease so to do, he shall be cast out: and if laymen be given to chess-playing and drunkenness, they shall be excluded."

In 1112, King Louis VI threw his chess pieces at King Henry I (1068-1135) after he lost a chess game.


In the 1100s, Alexios I, the emperor of the Byzantine empire, was a chess addict.


In 1117, King Louis VI (1081-1137) of France almost made a prisoner.  An English knight seized the bridle of Louis le Gros, says "the King is taken."  The king responded that in chess the king is never taken.


The oldest known chess set, the Lewis chessmen, has been dated to around 1120.


In 1125, chess was banned in some byzantine churches.


In 1127, a song of Guilhem IX, Count of Poitiers and Duke of Aquitaine, mentions chess.


In 1128, St. Bernard (1090-1153) forbade the Knights Templar from playing chess.


In 1130, draughts, a variant of chess, was invented in the south of France using backgammon pieces.


Around 1140, Rabbi Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra(1089-1167) wrote a poem on chess titled "Carmina Rhythmica de Ludo Schahmat seu Shahiludio," describing it as a battle between the black Ethiopians and the red Edomites.  Ben Ezra was one of the most distinguished Jewish men of letter of the Middle Ages.


In 1140, the Franciscan monk William of Malmesbury (1095-1143), foremost English historian of the 12th century, mentioned chess in his chronicles of the kings.


In 1144 Hyde Abbey, Winchester, was destroyed by fire.  Lost in the fire were the chessmen from King Canute (985-1035).


In 1148, the Alexiad of Anna Comnena (1083-1153) mentioned that her father, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios Comnenus (1056-1118), played chess (zatrikion).


In 1157, a Danish king saved himself by using a chessboard as a shield.


In 1173, a French chess manuscript used algebraic notation for the first time.


In 1180, Alexander Neckam (1157-1217), abbot of the Augustione Monastery of Cirencester, devoted a chapter to chess in his treatise, De Natura Rerum (On the Nature of Things).  He may have learned chess on a journey to Italy, not in England.  He also condemned chess for being frivolous.


In 1189, the first European reference to chess problems was made by Gerald of Wales (1146-1223).


In 1190, King Richard I (1157-99) learned of the game of chess while on the crusades.


In 1195, the rabbi Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) included chess among the forbidden games.  He was one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages.


In 1197, the Abbot of Persigny wrote to Matilda, Countess of Perche (1171-1210), warning her against chess.


In 1198, the bishop of Paris (1198 to 1208), Eudes (Odo) de Sully (1168-1208), banned chess from the clergy as stated in his "Ordonn des Rois de France."


In the 13th century, John Lackland (1166-1216), King of England, was a keen chess player.


Around 1200, Courier chess, played on a 12x8 board, was introduced.


In 1210, A Morality on Chess was written and ascribed to Pope Innocent III (1160-1216).


In 1212, Ferdinand (Ferrand) (1188-1233) of Portugal hit his wife Jeanne over a game of chess when she won.  When he became prisoner in 1214, she never tried to obtain his release.


In 1213, King John (1166-1216) was playing chess when his deputies from Rouen arrived to ask for his help against King Augustus (1165-1233).


Around 1220, chess is no longer played with dice to determine moves.


In 1230, the Icelandic Snorri Sturluson (St. Olaf’s Saga) contained chess references.  It was the first written appearance of chess in the Norse lands.


In 1240, chess was forbidden to the clergy in Worcester, England.


In 1250, King Louis IX (1214-1270) of France threw a chess set overboard during a trip from Egypt to the Holy Land.

In 1250, the king of Denmark was captured while playing chess.


In 1250, the Latin verse romance, De vetula (On the Old Woman), by Richard de Fournival (1201-1260), was written.  It mentions chess, with the chess pieces representing planets.


In 1250, The Mabinogion, a Welsh epic, attained written form.  Chess is mentioned in one of its tales, “The Dream of Maxen.”  It is the earliest prose literature of Britain.


In 1252, John of Wales wrote a collection of sermons using chess as a metaphor and an allegory.  The sermons have also been attributed to Pope Innocent III, and called The Innocent Morality.


On August 16, 1254, a court case appeared about a chessplayer who stabbed his opponent to death.


In December, 1254, Louis IX of France restricted chess to laymen and forbade all games in his kingdoms.


On May 8, 1255, the Provincial Council of Beziers in France passed a law forbidding chess.


In 1260, King Henry III (1207-72) instructed the clergy to leave chess alone.


In 1262, the Russian word for chess (shakmatny) wass introduced.


In 1264, a man stabbed a woman to death over a chess game.


In 1266, Buzecca, a Saracen (Arabian), played two games blindfolded and one, over-the-board chess in Florence.  He won two and drew one.  Buzecca played his chess gamea at the Palace del Popolo in front of Count Guido Novello


In October 1268, Conradin (1252-1268), king of the Germans and of Sicily, and Frederick of Baden (1249-1268) were told of their death sentence as traitors while they were playing chess in prison in Naples.


In 1271, the ruling Dalmatian towns of Yugoslavia was determined by a chess match.


In 1273, the Cotton manuscript is written.  It is the earliest English collection of chess problems.


Between 1275 and 1300, Jacobus de Cessolis (1250-1322), a Dominican monk, wrote the most important of all chess moralities and the most copied. He wrote Liber de moribus hominum et de officiis noblilium super ludo scacchorum (Book of the customs of men and the duties of nobles or the Book of Chess), the most famous morality book on chess in the Middle Ages.  He used chess as the basis for a series of sermons on morality, using chess to depict the relationships between a King and the various estates of his Kingdom.


Around 1275, the option of pawn double move on the first move was introduced in Italy.


In 1275, Jean de Meun composed additional lines to the Roman de la Rose (Romance of the Rose) using chess as a metaphor.


In 1283, the Alfonso manuscript was completed.  It was compiled for Alfonso X (1221-1284), King of Castile, Galicia and Leon.  It was called Libro de Acedrex, dados e tablas (Book of chess, dice and tables).


In 1290, a Lombard lawyer, Guido de Baysio (died 1313), formulated rules to govern chess.


In 1291, the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Peckhan (1230-1292), forbade chess.


In 1295, the Bonus Socius, was written in Lombardy. It was the first European manuscript using a coordinate notation and the first compilation of chess problems.


In 1297, the Chronicles of Robert of Gloucester was written.  It has an account of the knights of King Arthur playing chess


In 1300, the Gesta Romanorum, a chess morality compiled in England, was written.


In 1309, Ponce Hugo, Count of Ampurias, donated his chessmen to the cathedral of Gerona.


In 1310, chess was forbidden to the clergy in Germany after a ruling from the Council of Trier.


In 1322, the Jewish rabbi, Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (1286-1328), condemned chess in his Eben Bohan, an ethical treatise.


In 1329, the Synod of Wurzburg, Germany forbade chess.


In 1330, Giovanni Duvignay, Priest Ospitaliero of S. Jacopo d'Altopascio translanted Cessolis's chess morality book into French.


In 1335, Charles Robert (1288-1342), King of Hungary and Croatia, sent John (1296-1346), King of Bohemia, a chess set.


In 1340, the Persian 'treasury of sciences' was written.  It included three chapters on chess.


In 1347, a translation of the Cessolis morality (De Ludo Scachorum) into French was done by the monk Giovanni Ferron.


In 1350, Margiolano of Florence was recognized as the leading blindfold chess player.


In 1360, Les Echecs Amoureux was written.  It is one of the best examples of romantic allegory.


In 1369, Chaucer (1343-1400) used chess as a metaphor in his poem The Book of the Duchess.  Chaucer probably only had second-hand knowledge of chess, which he got from Roman de la rose.


In 1370, the earliest known chess puzzle called arrangement was created.


In the 14th century, Pope Gregory X! (1329-1378) was an avid chessplayer.


In 1374, Timur (1330-1405), also known as Tamerlane, named his son shah-rukh after playing chess.  According to his biographer, Ibn Arabshah, Timur was an addicted chess player.


In 1375, Charles V (1337-80) of France prohibited chess.


In the 14th century, Edward of Woodstock (1330-1376), called the Black Prince, was a known chess player.


In 1380, William of Wykeeham (1320-1404), founder of Oxford, forbade chess.  He was the Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England.


On October 10, 1390, John I (1350-1396), king of Aragon, Valenica and Majorca, requested a board and chess set at his lodging in Valencia.



In 1392, Charles VI (1368-1422) forbade chess.


On February 5, 1397, Louis (1372-1407), Duke of Orleans, purchased an elaborate chessboard.


On July 20, 1402, Tamerlane (1336-1405) played chess with his son Schabroch (Shaw Rukh) while his prisoner, Sultan Bajazet (Bayezid), wass brought to him.


In 1403, Mohammed Balba, Moorish king, wanted to put his brother Jusaf to death.  The execution was delayed as Jusaf was playing chess. Then Balba died and Jusaf becomes king.


In 1408, the Sultan Muhammed VII (1370-1408) played live chess in Grenada, Spain.


Around 1410, John Lydgate (1370-1451), monk and poet, wrote Reson and sensuallyte, a romantic allegory.  The poet finds himself checkmated in a game of chess by his beautiful partner, and anxiously turns to Amor, who instructs him in the arts of love.


In the 15th century, Martin of Aragon (1356-1410), King of Aragon, Valencia, Sardina and Corsica, was an avid collector of chess sets and books.


In 1415, King Henry V (1386-1422) played chess with John Wolcot (1390-?).  Wolcot's coat of arms, granted in 1416, has three rooks on it.


In 1416, the Jews of Forli, Italy banned all games of chance except chess.


In 1420, Sigismund (1368-1437), Holy Roman Emperor, abandoned the prohibition of chess.


In 1422, the Cracow Poem was written.  It stated that stalemate was a draw.  The Cracow poem reported many unfamiliar rules about the king’s and queen’s movement.  The Cracow poem attributed the invention of chess to Ulysses.


In 1430, Charles VII (1403-61), King of France, was a chess addict.




In 1437, King James I (1394-1437) of Scotland was playing chess just before he was assassinated.


In 1440, the Civis Bononiae, a collection of chess problems, was copied and incorporated in a Florentine manuscript.  Civis Bononiae (Citizen of Bologna) is the pseudonym of the compiler of a large collection of chess problems.  Chess problems became popular at this time because there was a demand for a quick, decisive ending adaptable to gambling purposes.


Around 1450, the custom of attaching to each problem an author began.


In 1454, the best copy of the Civis Bononiae manuscript was made.  It is now in Modena.


In 1454, a living chess game was played in Morostica, Italy for the hand of a lady.


In May 1457, Charles (1394-1465), Duke of Orleans, won a rare chess manuscript.  He was taken prisoner at Agincourt and spent the next 25 years in England as a prisoner.


In the 15th century, Charles the Bold (1433-1477), Duke of Burgundy, was known as a strong chess player.


In 1464, a statute included chessmen in a list of goods which were no longer to be imported in England.



In 1470, the Innocent Morality was published.  It was the first printed reference to chess.


Between 1471 and 1475, the Gottingen manuscript was published.  It is the work devoted to modern chess. It was 33 pages long and written by Lucena.


In 1472, the first printing of the Gesta Romanorum morality was published in Latin.


In 1472, the first hardback book dealing with chess was published.


In 1473, the first printed edition of Cessolis's Book of Chess was published in Utrecht.  The work was the basis of William Caxton’s The Game and Playe of the Chesse, printed in 1474, the second book ever published in English.



In late 1474, William Caxton (1422-1491) published The game and playe of chesse while living in Bruges, Belgium.  Caxton translated two French versions of the Liber de ludo scacchorum of Jacobus de Cessolis, made by Jean Faron and by Jean de Vignay.  Caxton made use of both versions, translating partly from one and partly from the other.  The Game of Chess was the second book printed in the English language.  The first book, also printed by Caxton, was The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, published in early 1474.


In December 1474, the Gottingen manuscript was in the hands of King Alfonso V of Portugal.


In 1475, the beginning of modern chess started in southern Europe.  The fers was replaced by the queen and the aufin was replaced by the bishop.


In 1476, Cessolis's Book of Chess was translated into French and printed in Toulouse.



In 1476, at Louvaine, Charles the Bold forbade cards & dice, but not chess.


In 1477, Jacob de Cessolis translation of Book of Chess was published in Augsburg.


In 1483, Caxton’s The Game of Chess was reprinted.  It was the first book to ever be reprinted.  It was printed in Westminster by William Caxton with woodcut illustrations of the chess pieces.


In 1485, the first known modern chess game was recorded.


Around 1490, en passant was introduced.


In 1492, King Ferdinand played chess while Columbus negotiated.


In 1493, the first Italian edition of Cessolis’s Book of Chess was printed in Florence for Antonio Miscomini


On May 15, 1495, the first practical chess book, Libre dels Jochs Partits dels Schacs en Nombre de 100, was printed by the Catalan Francesch Vicent.  It was a treatise on openings and published in Valencia, Spain.


In 1495, during the Inquisition, living chess was played.


In 1497, the oldest surviving book dealing with practical play, Repeticion de Amores e art de axedrez con CL juegos de partido, was printed by Luis Ramirez Lucena.  He dedicated the book to Prince Juan who died in 1497.


In 1498, Mennel presented a manuscript to Emperor Maximilian I that chess is a game of skill.


In 1499, Francesco Colonna's (1433-1527) Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (The Dream of Poliphilius) described a living chess game.


Around 1499, the poem Scachs d'amor (Chess of Love) was written by Francesc de Castellvi (1430-1506), Bernat Fenollar (1438-1516), and Narcis de Vinyoles (1442-1517).  It was Published in Valencia, Spain.  he poem is conceived as a chess game in which the opponents are Franci de Castellvi, as White (in modern chess), (Mars Març, Love Amor and red pieces in the play), and Narcis Vinyoles, playing Black (Venus, the Glory Gloria, and green pieces). They debate about love, and Bernat Fenollar comments and establishes the rules. The opening in the game is the Scandinavian Defense.   The poem uses the game as an allegory for love. Its structure is based upon sixty-four stanzas (the same number as for the chessboard squares), nine verses each. The stanzas are grouped three after three: The first stanza in the group represents the White move, the second one the Black's move, and the third one a comment on the rules by the arbiter. The three stanzas in the beginning are an introduction and the last one is checkmate.  Supposedly, the game played is the first one documented with the modern rules of chess.


By 1500, chess became a recognized pastime for Jews on the Sabbath.