Chess!.. Two adverse powers, sixteen pieces on each side, array their forces for silent combat on a 64-square board. They await the signal for battle to commence. And it is not some magician's wand, but the hand of Man, his controlling Reason, his deciding Will which sets them in motion.
As Man is amazed by the interdependence and harmony he finds in Nature, in chess he is struck by the unusually complex, yet at the same time coherent, system of the game, which is achieved through the interaction of all its elements - the pieces, their moves and the tactics of the battle. In the logic and illogicality, the laws and the paradoxes, the mysteries of positions and combinations there is a great attraction, and this is what makes chess an art form.
A chess combat is the most noble one mankind has ever known: bloodless, striking for the depth of thought, the reflexion of human passions and the sense of beauty it invokes.
One of the greatest boons is what Voltaire, the eighteenth-century French philosopher and enlightener, called the game of chess. In our times, the role of chess in the cultural life of society has grown to such an extent that it is rightly regarded as one of the important elements of modern civilization. Combining aspects of art, science and sport, this wise and ancient game has not only become a form of intellectual contest and a leisure pursuit, but also an acknowledged tool for the education of children and young people, a testing ground for experiments in computing and other scientific fields - and, of course, it serves to ease friendly contacts between all the peoples of our planet. Today about 130 countries are united by the International Chess Federation (FIDE).
Chess has a rare appeal to man's aesthetic sense. "I am very fond of chess: it combines art and science. It brings me relaxation and inspiration", the great twentieth-century composer, Dmitry Shostakovich, said.
The ability of human beings to perceive the world in an aesthetic way finds a completely natural artistic expression in chess. There is no other game in the history of mankind which has been so widely reflected in folk art and in literature, in painting and drawing, and especially in applied art, which over the many centuries has created a whole world of chessmen.
And this world can tell us much, helping us discover the secrets of the origins of chess and of its spread around the Earth. The game, as we know, appeared in its earliest version in India in the first centuries after the birth of Christ; then in Central Asia in the fifth or sixth century it took on a new form, the one by which we know it today, as the symbolic representation of a military encounter with a large number of different participants - from foot soldiers and cavalry to generals and kings. As early as the Middle Ages, the game had spread across the immense land-mass of Europe and Asia, adapting itself easily to local conditions, with both the military standards and the general way of life of a particular people finding reflection in the terminology and in the appearance of chess pieces. Since the rules did not change, chess remained an area of common ground between people of different ethnic backgrounds. This was also assisted by the creation in the early Middle Ages in the Middle East of new, more abstract, Arab pieces, which subsequently, with various modifications, spread from the Middle East through Europe.
With the advent of chess, people have always striven to make the chessmen, especially the figurative ones which accord with the national names for the individual pieces, reflect the fascination for the game that they themselves feel, and they have demonstrated great imagination in doing so. This is reflected in the depiction of the life of the age, in the personification of the pieces, in the recreation of images from mythology or from well-known works of literature, in the presentation of various events from world history and in other ways.
AH sorts of materials have been used to make chess sets over the past one and a half thousand years: elephant and walrus ivory, wood and ceramics, silver and gold, steel and bronze, mother-of-pearl and amber, porcelain and glass, and, more recently, various types of plastic.
Today chess sets belonging to the people of various continents and various ages from a part of the cultural riches of these nations and are kept in the great museums and private collections of Moscow and St.Petersburg, London and Paris, Munich and Nuremberg, Vienna and New York. The collectors try to make the valuable objects they have acquired the subject of scholarly study and also to make them known to wide circles of lovers of the game, by putting together exhibitions, organizing seminars and so on. These were the motives which a few years ago, on the initiative of American collectors, led enthusiasts to create an international organization - Chess Collectors International (CCI).
Today it is affiliated to FIDE and already has a membership representing over twenty countries. These members are owners of collections of great artistic, cultural and historical value. Historians of chess culture are also involved in the activities of the organization. CCI regularly arranges international meetings and congresses working in close co-operation with the main museums of the countries where forums are organized. Exhibitions of chess pieces are arranged on the basis of the collections of these museums and of private persons. In this way, the Third Congress, held in Munich in 1988, had three major exhibitions and a seminar on the history of chess pieces, as well as an exhibition for sale of the works of contemporary painters on chess-related themes. The author of the present volume, who presented papers on the ancient chess pieces at this forum and at the subsequent congresses in New York in 1990 and in Paris in 1992, was particularly impressed by the energetic activities of the first CCI President Dr. George A.Dean (USA) and of the national organizing committees headed by Dr. Thomas H.Thomsen (Germany), Gareth Williams (Great Britain) and Floyd Sarisohn (USA), which turned the regular congresses of CCI into a notable landmark in the development of present-day chess culture. The splendid exhibition catalogues together with authoritative scholarly works on chess pieces, which have appeared in the USA and a number of European countries in the last decades, serve to give some idea of the unusual variety that is to be found in the chess sets produced by many peoples from the Middle Ages through to the twentieth century and, of course, of the ever-growing world interest in the study of the links between chess culture and art with chess pieces as an original trend in small-scale plastic art.
In foreign art books and catalogues, it is possible to come across only few isolated examples of chess pieces in Russia between the eighteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, now kept in Western European museums or private collections which in no way reflects the true development of the art of chess pieces in Russia - a country known for a high level of chess culture and chess traditions extending back over many centuries. Occupying a huge part of Europe and Asia, Russia and some neighbouring countries include the region of Central Asia, where the game of chess first appeared in the early Middle Ages, and also the territory of the first Russian state, Rus, where the game underwent a thousand years of development, in many ways similar to that which took place in Western Europe. Thus, chess has become an inseparable part of Russian national culture. Large-scale archaeological investigations have been carried out in these areas in resent years and these have led to the discovery of priceless articles of chess culture from the early and late Middle Ages, to finds in Central Asia of the oldest known chess pieces, dating to the seventh and eighth centuries, and of several hundred pieces from between the tenth and the seventeenth centuries in the towns of Old Rus. They have permitted the author of the present volume to trace the evolution of chess forms from the mediaeval Arab pieces to the modem Staunton type.
While abstract chess forms in Russia developed essentially in the same direction as in the countries of the West, figurative pieces -made from ivory, wood, porcelain, metal and plastic - retained much that was unique and linked to national terminology and to the specific nature of the applied art of the peoples of Russia. The tradition of producing figurative chess sets is one which has survived here to the present day.
Russia, the first country to pave man's way into space, was also a pioneer of chess in outer space. To play the game under conditions of weightlessness demanded the creation of a special "cosmic" chess set.
To tell about chess pieces from the earliest days of the game's existence to the present, and on into a distant future of interplanetary voyages, to show the evolution of these pieces over the almost one and a half millennia of chess history on the territory of Russia and the neighbouring countries - this is the task which the author has set himself.
The changes which took place in the form of pieces were not chance occurrences and in many ways they are connected with the development of chess as a whole. This obliges us to preface a discussion of the pieces themselves with an brief excursion into the history of chess - to the extent that it will be of use in better understanding the questions of the evolution of pieces.
Naturally the presentation of all artistically and historically valuable chess sets in their entirety would scarcely be possible. The present volume is a first attempt to present chess pieces which belong to a number of Russian museums in Moscow, StPetersburg, Novgorod and Suzdal, museums of the countries of the "near abroad" in Kiev, Minsk, Vitebsk, Trakai, Samarkand, etc. and also to various private collections.
The history of culture is still full of mysteries, one of which is the origins of chess. Its beginning has been assigned to the first centuries after the birth of Christ and is shrouded in the mists of legends, which tell of the creation in India of a game, capable of providing endless food for thought, the thrills of a battle without blood, and comfort in the vicissitudes of human life-One legend expounded in Firdausi's epic Shah Nameh (late 10th -early 11th century), is especially beautiful. The heroes of the poem are Indian princes - the brothers Gav and Talkand. After the death of their father, Jumhura, an internecine war broke out between them for the throne, in the course of which Talkhand's army was destroyed, and he himself died suddenly. The dowager-queen, driven to despair by the death of her younger son, accused Gav of murdering his brother. In his desire to calm his mother and to demonstrate that Talkhand had not been killed in battle, Gav gathered together the sages from all parts of the kingdom. One of them who was reputed to be "the most valiant of all in India and wise, drew out the field of battle and showed the movement of the troops and commanders." On a board divided into squares he placed figures of foot and mounted soldiers and war chariots and elephants, carved out of ivory, and depicted all the course of the battle, the dem ise of one of the arm ies, but not of its commander
Now the Shah retreated from his square
While he still had ways to escape.
He was pressed and surrounded on all sides
By the tutor and the rookh, the horse, infantry and the elephant.
The young king looked around anxiously and saw
That his army was scattered and in great trouble.
There were water and obstacles on all sides.
Enemies on the right and on the left.
Checkmate - the hero died from privations -
Such was the decision of fate.
And in this way of telling the story of Talkhand
Glorious Gav ushered in the game of chess.
In the East, there is another legendary version supporting an Indian origin for the game, which was first expounded in the Pahlavi (Middle Persian) manuscript Madayan-y-Chatrang (The Book of Chatrang), roughly dated to 600 A.D., the earliest literary source to mention chess. According to this story, the complicated game of chatrang (ancestor of chess) was sent by an Indian rajah to the mighty Shah Khusrau I Anushirvan of Persia (531-579) as a puzzle to be solved. Among the latter's retinue there was only one wise man, Buzurgmikhr, who managed to guess what the rules of the game were. The Shah responded by sending to India the game of nard. This version also found reflection in Firdausi's poem, and later - in the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries -in miniature illustrations of its text. Thus, a miniature in a Persian copy of Firdausi's poem Shah Nameh, produced in 1333 and now kept in the StPetersburg National Library, depicts the game of chess between the Indian envoy Kannuja and Buzurgmikhr. The Shah and his retinue are watching them closely. The Shah is depicted on an ivory throne, covered with a colourful, gold-brocaded canopy2.
To what extend do these legends correspond to the real story of the origins and development of chess? To cast light on this question, scholars have above all turned their gaze to the distant past of India, to the history of Indian literature, folklore and miniature sculpture.
"A picture tells a thousand words" - the author was once again convinced of the justness of this expression when visiting the exhibition "Indian Classical Art from 3000 B.C. to the 19th Century", held in Moscow in the summer of 1987 as part of the Festival of India in the USSR. The numerous exhibits, including small-scale sculpture and arich display of colourful miniatures, allowed the visitorto form an impression of the ancient and mediaeval life in India, of the grandeur of its culture which endured for many centuries.
And there was probably only one detail of life and art that was not reflected in the exhibition - there was no trace in it of the ancient game of chess. Perhaps this was an omission on the part of the museums and Archaeological Service of India? Or do we have some secret in the cultural development of the Indian people that science has not unveiled yet? As early as the eighteenth century, a well-known English poet -author of the poem "Kaissa" and orientalist with an excellent knowledge of Sanskrit literature - Sir William Jones wrote that he failed to find any account of the game, so certainly invented in India, in the classical writings of the Brahmins .
Two hundred years have passed since those lines were written, but to this day there is no firm agreement among scholars on when or where chess originated, nor on the question of whether it appeared as the result of a single act of invention or as the product of a long evolution from popular games. In our century these arguments have flared up with renewed force. The most varied theories and hypotheses continue to be put forward. Certain authors began looking for the sources of the game in neighbouring countries, particularly in Iran or even in China.
Conflicting views came to light during the first International Conference of the Historians of Chess, convened on the initiative of Dr. Thomas H.Thompsen in Konigstein (Germany) in August 1991. It was fully devoted to the problems of the origins of chess. This is not the place, bearing in mind the aim of the book, to examine all these hypotheses, to list all their pros and cons. We shall just briefly describe the initial stages in the history of the development of chess as they appear in the light of our present-day knowledge. This permits us to speak with more certainty of the long evolution of the game of chess, of the origin in India of its initial form - chaturanga, of subsequent changes in the game which took place in a wider area of Central Asia. Over the course of some fifteen hundred years, the game passed through three stages of development: chaturanga - shatrang (chatrang) - the modern game of chess. In other words the first mention of chess in India is not of the game as we know it nowadays but of chaturanga. This is precisely the name given to a troop formation in the early Indian epic the Mahabharata, which was composed somewhere in the sixth or fifth century B.C., and written down in Sanskrit in the first centuries of our era. Here the reference is to four types of troops - elephants (khasti), chariots (ratha), cavalry (ashva) and foot soldiers (padati), and also to their leader - the king or rajah. The symbolic representation of this formation on a 64-square checkerboard (ashtapada), most probably, gave the game its name. First to mention it was the Indian writer Bana. In his novel Harshacharita (The Life of Harsha, dating from the first half of the seventh century) he describes life under King Harsha of Thanesar: "Under this king, only the bees quarrelled as they gathered nectar [...] and it was the ashtapada alone that taught [men] the positions of the chaturanga."4 By this the author meant that during this king's reign battles were fought only on the chessboard.
From an ethnographical description of this game based on the personal impressions of Biruni, the noted scholar of Khwarezm, in his work India (early eleventh century), it is possible to see that chaturanga of his time was still very different from the modern game: the pieces were placed in the four corners of the board and there was no queen. The game was for four players and continued until all the pieces were eliminated. Moves were determined by throwing dice, in other words it was to a large extent a game of chance. In this sense chaturanga was little different from other games with dice which had been known in India since early times.
Nevertheless it contained certain elements and peculiarities which led to the invention of shatrang (chatrang), a game with two adverse powers. These were the military symbolism of the game, and a rule -a rudimentary form of the idea of checkmate - that even after the game had been lost, as Biruni reports, the king did not have to be removed from the board. Apparently, this piece was associated with the monarch, who, by the traditional concepts of that time, might not be killed. It is curious too that the pieces in Biruni's diagram are depicted in two colours (with red and black ink) , and not four, as we come across in the game under its later name of chaturaji (fourteenth and fifteenth centuries): two colours for the pieces represent a preliminary stage on the way to combining them into two "armies" and transforming chaturanga into a game for two opponents.
However, we do not know what the pieces looked like in this game at this original stage. Chaturanga was possibly considered just one of the several varieties of dice and as such not worth particular description. One of the epic heroes Yudhishtkhira, because of an unbridled passion for playing, loses his kingdom and dooms himself and those close to him to a hard, wandering existence. For this reason dice, so highly popular among many young men in early India, were thought to possess a magic power inimical to men:
They tumble down, they spin up,
Handless they conquer him who has hands,
Unearthly coals, thrown in the trough Ч†
They set the heart alight, yet themselves are cold 6.
Recently, thanks to the researches of Russian and foreign scholars who have been studying the ancient culture of Central Asia, it has become possible to hope that we may learn more about the games, which immediately preceded chaturanga, and about chaturanga itself. In ancient times and in the early Middle Ages the art of realistically depicting animals and people in the form of terracotta or ivory statuettes had reached a high level in India, Central Asia, Iran and other countries of the East. From this it is a logical step to games in which miniature figures played a part. This was one substantial factor among the many favourable to the creation and spread of the Indian game of chaturanga.
When, and under what circumstances, did chaturanga turn into a game for two players - shatrang (chatrang)? Apparently, shatrang came into being in the larger area of the Kushan kingdom (second or first centuries B.C. to the third or fourth centuries A.D.), or, as is more likely, of the Ephtalite state (fifth and sixth centuries), which both covered Northern India, present-day Pakistan, Afghanistan, the southern parts of Central Asia and Eastern Iran. At that time the influence of Buddhism and of Indian art and culture predominated in this area. Accordingly, many legends dating from that time name India as the place where shatrang was created.
A substantial role in the creation of the Kushan and Ephtalite states was played by the Persian-speaking peoples of Central Asia, which explains why in shatrang, besides those terms which are direct translations from the Sanskrit (pil - elephant known in the West as bishop, shah - king, pieda - pawn) or close in meaning to it (asp - horse or knight), there also appear terms and types of pieces, which cannot be explained by reference to Indian troop organization or indeed to Indian life in general. These include the term farzin or vizier (adviser), which did not exist earlier, in chaturanga, and rukh, which derived from ratha by phonetic association, but already had a different meaning: now it referred not to a war chariot, but to a fantastic bird, the guardian spirit of the warriors.
The changes in the names of the pieces and the game itself shed a great deal of light on the problems which exist in research into the origins of chess. They allow us to trace ethnic and cultural links and the specific ways in which the game was adopted by different peoples. But for all this, it is hardly possible to precisely establish the date of its creation or the exact way in which it penetrated into this or that country. In our view, only a multi-disciplinary study of the problem, making use of historical, ethnographical, literary and folklore sources with a decisive role being played by archaeological discoveries, would be able to lift the veil on the age-old secret of the origins of chess.
Having appeared in the area of Central Asia, the game spread in a relatively short time, still in the early Middle Ages, to many countries. The methods by which the game was introduced to different peoples were many and varied. In some cases it was Buddhism pilgrims who took it with them (Tibet, Mongolia, China, Japan, Burma and Malaya), in others the spread of chess was facilitated by the formation of the extensive Arab Caliphate (the countries of the Middle East, North-Western India, Transcaucasia, North Africa, Spain and Sicily), in yet other countries peoples learned of the game through trading and cultural links (Byzantium, the Khazar Khaganate on the Lower Volga, and Kievan Rus).
The spread of the game around the world, unparalleled in its rapidity and extent, makes logical sense. The game turned out to be reasonably complicated, providing people with an occasion for the mental competition they needed, and a constant aesthetic attraction, bringing them the joy of creativity and the opportunity to demonstrate strength of character.
In the countries of the Moslem world (in Central Asia, Iran and the Arabian East) chess became one of the favourite forms of popular entertainment. Making the pieces into simplified, abstract symbols reduced the costs of producing them and, thus, they became more readily available to all levels of the population. They began to be made not only of wood and ivory, but frequently also from fired clay. Rich families bought themselves chess sets made of ivory. They also invited skilful players to give them instruction in the game. Women too were playing chess. Stories and legends quite often include the attractive image of Dilaram, a woman chess-player, who proves stronger at the game than the men who oppose her. One of the Arabian Nights stories tells of Tavaddud a merchant's slave-girl, who after being put to the test for her eloquence, knowledge of the Koran, of medicine and of astrology, also displays her skill in the game of chess.
On the other hand, the Arabs didn't practically change the rules and the terminology of the game. Probably they alone fully preserved the Persian-Tajik terminology. With their pronounciation shatrang became shatranj, pil - alfil (bishop), pieda - baydak (pawn), farzin,- firzan (queen), asp - faras (horse or knight). The names of two pieces remained unchanged - shah and rukh.
Much evidence has survived of the flourishing of shatranj in the East, from tracts by famous masters of the game (aliya) to works of art and literature.
In describing the rich vein of chess imagery and similes in the folklore and literary works of the peoples of the East, we inevitably notice that, due to the abstract nature of the pieces, chess gradually ceased to be apprehended as a symbol of military conflict. The dramatic struggle within a game of chess becomes more and more associated with the turns and reverses of human life, and this is reflected in the epics and in the classic works of literature produced by Omar Khayyam, Sa'di, Nizami, Abu-1 Faraj, Jalal-ud-din Rumi, Navoi and many other writers and poets. They stressed that the attraction of chess lies above all in the beauty of thought, in the high morality of the game and in its impartiality.
Another Arabic poet of the ninth century, Ibn al Mu'tazz, produced a fiery defence of the game in the face of its detractors - who existed in many countries and in all ages - in these words:
O thou, whose cynic sneers express
The censure of our favourite chess.
Know that its skill is science' self,
Its play distraction from distress.
It soothes the anxious lover'scare;
It weans the drunkard from excess;
It counsels warriors in their art,
When dangers threat and perils press;
And yields us, when we need them most.
Companions in our loneliness.
Quite a number of similes and aphorisms relating to chess can be found in the poems Khusrau and Shirin and Iskander-nama by Nizami of Ganja, an Azerbaijani poet and philosopher of the twelfth century who wrote in Farsi.
In one of the parables of his poem The Language of the Birds the fifteenth-century Uzbek poet, Alisher Navoi, describes an impressive encounter between two strong chess players ("you will not find anything more beautiful", the poet assures us). The account is completed in profound couplets:
This battle - whether it take one or the other end -
From the field, sooner or later, will be swept by a hand...
All has collapsed, that these two wise men did, Ч .
All their thought, the product of limitless wit...
All thrown in the bag with a single sweep,
The Padishah below, the pawns atop the heap.
Already in the early Middle Ages, the eighth and ninth centuries, some European countries adopted chess from the Arabs. In Western Europe these were Spain and Italy. Later, between the tenth and the twelfth centuries, the game became known in France, England, Germany, Scandanavia and other parts of Europe. Only Byzantium, Russia, Bulgaria and Hungary adopted chess directly from the East, apparently at the same time as it reached Spain and Italy.
Although little is known about the initial stage of chess development in Europe, taken as a whole, this fragmentary information gives an idea of the extent to which the game spread and of its degree of popularity in the Middle Ages.
At that time the fascination with chess was confined mainly to representatives of various spheres of mental labour, the feudal elite and the royal courts. Chess took its place alongside horse-riding, archery and fencing as one of the favourite pastimes of the knights. Troubadours and minstrels composed songs about chess; it is mentioned frequently in mediaeval romances and legends of the deeds of the knights.
Until recently a lack of written sources made it difficult to trace the early history of chess among the Eastern Slavs. Of the pre-revolutionary researchers, it was Ivan Savenkov (1846-1914), a Siberian scholar and chessman, who came closest to the truth.
A study of chess terminology and of cultural and trade links between the Slavs and the Arabs led him to conclude that chess arrived in Rus in the eighth or ninth century by way of the Caspian-Volga trade route. This is how he pictured it to himself: "A curious merchant, with an eye for any kind of wares and searching for goods 'for his own country', could not help but notice the various types of chess set. In the streets and by the shops, he could not help noticing people playing chess too. Once he had taken an interest in the game, it would not have been difficult for a quick-witted merchant to master its rules and to take it back to his distant . homeland."
Today our conception of chess in the state of Kievan Rus has been enhanced by new facts provided by archaeology, ethnography, the study of folklore and other branches of knowledge. Thus, comparing chess terminology in Eastern and Western countries, it was possible to reconstruct the original names and forms of early Russian chess pieces. Four of the terms - tsar for the king, slon (elephant) for the bishop, kon (horse) for the knight and peshka for the pawn - were simply translated from the Eastern languages, the names of the two other types of pieces - ferz for the queen and ladya for the castle, or rook - reflected the peculiarities of early Russian life. In a similar way to that in which the Europeans found the presence of an elephant among the army of chess pieces strange and incomprehensible so that they produced new and varied interpretations of the piece, it was difficult for the Slavs of Kievan Rus to comprehend the existence alongside the tsar, caesar (king) of a second piece (notably, in the West it came to be known as the queen), almost equal in rank and - at that time - in power (though we should remember that in shatrang the farzin was not yet able to move across the whole board). The Russian princes, whether in peace or in war; had no such powerful advisers or commanders-in-chief, as the viziers were for the Persians, and later for the Arabs. For this reason, the Eastern term in this case remained untranslated and was simply adopted directly into Russian.
As far as the term ladya is concerned, it is even more difficult to divine its origins. As we have already noted, the rukh denoted a gigantic bird, endowed with exceptional strength, which, like the fire-bird of Russian legend, helped the heroes in their fights with enemies. But the term rukh itself, foreign to the peoples of Europe, underwent in their hands new and interesting changes, explainable partially by the laws of phonetic association. In Spain the piece acquired the name roque, in Italy - rocco, in France - roc, all of which mean a rock or cliff. From a rock it was but a single step to a military interpretation of the term in keeping with the other names in the game of chess and with mediaeval European military technology. This is why subsequently many European peoples accepted a new shape for the piece - in the form of a fortress tower, for which new terms were duly introduced: in Spanish and Italian - torre, in French - tour, in English - roc (which later became rook), in German - turm, in Czech - vez and in Polish - wieza.
A completely different interpretation was given to this piece in Early Russia. Here the pieces, which at the beginning of game are set in corner squares, acquired the name ladya, which means "boat". This can be explained by the superficial resemblance of the abstract figure of the rukh to a Russian boat, the type of vessel on which the Slav merchants and their guards would sail along the Dneiper, the Don and the Volga, and around the Black Sea and the Caspian. In adopting shatrang, the Slavs, who thought in realistic, concrete terms, quickly changed the alien rukh for ladya, the boat, which was to hand and generally understandable. Thus it was the shape of the rukh which suggested to the Slavs the new name for the piece - ladya.
If we now make a general comparison between the original names of the pieces in Early Russia and in the West, taking Spain and Italy as an example, then we find that in Russia four terms turn out to have been direct translations, while in the West there are three (king, knight and pawn); the Eastern Slavs adopted one term without translation - ferz (vizier), in the West they took two - al-fil (elephant) and rukh. Besides radical changes occurred in respect to one term - in the West ferz was replaced by a word meaning queen or lady, while instead of rukh in Russia they used ladya (boat). Naturally, this led to differences in the shape of chess pieces: one of them, rukh, began to resemble a boat in Russia, and a fortress tower in the West.
Archaeology has provided conclusive evidence of the Eastern Slavs' early acquaintance with the game of chess. Chess sets "with faces", as figurative chess pieces were called in Russia from early times, and large numbers of more abstract pieces, both with the original Eastern symbolism and with a new symbolism of later date, have been discovered during excavations of almost all the large towns of Kievan Rus.
By the eleventh and twelfth centuries chess was already common in Russia. However, neither the chronicles, nor other early works of literature, make any mention whatsoever of the game - the first mention, and a negative one at that, dates from the thirteenth century. The explanation in that under the influence of Byzantium the Church in Russia came out in fervent opposition to chess. Chess was banned on a par with dice-playing and other "devilish delusions."
The fate of chess, after it reached Byzantium, reminds that of a plant which fell on stony ground and withered before it had time to flower. Evidence of the negative attitude towards chess in the ninth century can be found in the Nomocanon, a collection of canon laws compiled by Patriarch Photius. In the eyes of the clergy the game of chess was comparable with dice-playing, which had already been banned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople on punishment of excommunication.
The decision of this Council then served as the main trump card in the struggle against chess not only for the clergy of Byzantium itself. It was also cited by the Church of Rome, which displayed a similar intolerance towards the game from the East in the early period. The oldest Italian document to mention chess, a letter written by Cardinal Damiani (1061), contains a reference to the canonical ban on dice-games. This curious document begins with the words: "I halt my pen, for I am red with shame that I must make mention of still more people held chess is also reflected in the bylinas, popular epics passed down from generation to generation in oral form.
In Russian heroic epics chess is considered on a par with such contests as archery and wrestling. It is significant that the bylinas rich in chess-playing episodes, these mental trials of strength, are those which date from the early feudal period: such epics as Mikhailo Potyk, Stavr Godinovich, Ilya of Murom and Kalin the Tsar, and Vasily Kazimirovich were first created while the state of Kievan Rus still existed, although later they came to reflect the aspirations of the people in their struggle against the Tatar-Mongol yoke which had destroyed it.
Chess matches in the bylinas are usually depicted during the feasts of Prince Vladimir of Kiev or on the occasion of the arrival of an embassy in a foreign state, when the outcome decides which of the two rulers should pay tribute to the other. Thus, the legendary hero Mikhailo Potyk, by beating the rascally King Vakhramey, "won an immeasurable fortune in gold" and forced him "to pay tribute to the great city of Kiev."
There is another interesting episode involving chess in the bylina entitled Stavr Godinovich. Strong and courageous heroes have gathered at a feast given by "gentle Prince Vladimir". Here one of the guests, Stavr Godinovich from Chernigov, boasts about his young wife, who has no equal for beauty or brains. And she also plays chess, "amazing all good people, Russia's great heroes". This bragging angers Vladimir and he orders Stavr to be locked in the vaults. His wife Vasilisa Mikulichna, when she learns of the trouble, gathers a force for an expedition to rescue her husband. In Kiev she pretends to be a foreign envoy. This is when her trials begin - trials which include a game of chess. She defeats Prince Vladimir and he releases Stavr.
The descriptions of chess matches in the popular epics are remarkable for the originality of certain details of everyday life and, of course, for the perception of the game itself. The following extract from the bylina Mikhailo Potyk is of particular interest:
As soon as they had set up the board for chess. They began to walk and stroll around the board}'
Walk and stroll around the board... Such a clear, graphic expression can only have come from a man, who had watched the game and sensed its poetic fascination.
In the thirteenth century historical events of great importance took place - the invasion of Russia by the Tatar-Mongols of the Golden Horde and the new conditions under which early Russian society had to live -to one extent or another left their mark too on the development of chess. And if, under these extremely unfavourable cercumstances of foreign invasion and persecution on the part of the Church, chess continued its spread among the various classes of society, it can only be explained by the fact that the game had down deep roots in Russia while the state of Kievan Rus still existed. An extremely small number of written sources mentioning chess have survived from the thirteenth to the fifteenth 3 century but now each year sees an increase in the number of archaeological finds from this period, which demonstrate that chess continued to develop in Early Russia.
There is far more surviving evidence about chess from the sixteenth and seventeenth century. As before, chess was still under an official ban in the sixteenth century. In many ecclesiastical epistles and instructions the game is condemned, along with singing, dancing and music. Thus, the domestic manual Domostroi, written by Archpriest Sylvester in about 1550, threatened those who broke the precepts of the Church and played chess: "they shall be all together straightways in hell and forever damned". The Council of a Hundred Chapters of 1551 included chess among "games of hellish possession". However changes in life itself gradually altered this resolution of the Council. In the Council Code of 1649 there was no longer any mention of chess.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, travellers in Russia were struck by the popularity of chess and high standards of play. Thus, Turberville, an Englishman who spent time in Moscow together with the envoy, sir Thomas Randolph, in 1568 and wrote a series of letters in verse back to London, which were later turned into a book entitled An Account of Russia, confirmed that:
The common game is chess, almost the simplest will Both give a check and eke a mate, By practiclal comes their skill'.
A century later, Jakob Reutenfels, the Papal Envoy to Moscow in 1670-1673, wrote of the interest in chess among various classes of society: "At this game nowadays both old men and children spend all their time on all the streets and squares of Moscow."1
Are these accounts exaggerated? Archaeological excavations in the old Moscow district of Zariadye in the years since the war of 1941 -1945 confirm their statements. Numerous chess pieces were discovered on islands in the Bay of Faddei close to the Taimyr Peninsula in the Kara Sea, in the Russian settlement on Spitsbergen in the Barents Sea, in the Russian town of Mangazeya in Western Siberia and in other Siberian towns.
At the turn of the seventeenth century, closer contacts between Russia and the central European countries led to the appearance of new names for the chess pieces which came into use alongside the old Russian names - the rook is now sometimes tura or bashnia (tower) instead of ladya (boat), the bishop an ofitser (officer) as well as slon (elephant); ferz is often replaced by koroleva (queen) and tsar by korol (king). Incidentally there was another reason for the adoption of this last term. The use of the term tsar could be risky as shows the 1685 "treason case" against the serviceman Khomiakov, who while playing chess with a certain Andriushka Volynshchik, snatched a piece from the board and shouted: "I thought this was the ferz, but it's the tsar!" and then proceeded to address a few strong words to the "tsar". Since there were witnesses to the game, the governor of the Yenisei Territiiy came to know of it. The culprit was brought to trial and obliged to prove that there was no evil intent in his words. It is true that a decree ordering Khomiakov's release arrived from Moscow, but the very fact that the incident occurred probably explains why Russian chess-players subsequently took to calling this piece korol, or king.
Researchers into the history of chess, including such a well-known authority as Murray, author of the fundamental work A History of Chess (1913), have noted mutual influences between the cultures of East and West in the sphere of chess during this period. At the turn of the seventeenth century, a process of modifying the rules make chess into a faster game can be observed almost simultaneously throughout the countries of Europe.
It is interesting too that the earliest-known records of occasional encounters between Russian chess-players and foreigners date back to this time. Particularly noteworthy among them are two reports about the enthusiasm for chess of the Russians, who arrived in Italy and France as part of embassies. A certain A. Serristori informed the government of the Republic of Venice, that the ambassador who had arrived from Moscow in 1656 and the persons accompanying him did not go to Mass on holidays, but remained at home and played chess "in which consists the best of their achievements; and indeed they play this game, as is said, to perfection"1 . This report is the more significant for the fact that at the time of the Renaissance the Italians had no small number of strong chess-players and they were then considered the best in Europe.
A French chronicle reports along much the same lines about the pastimes of the members of the Muscovite embassy, which arrived in Paris to see Louis XIV in May 1685: "Marshal Humieres, having collected the Muscovite envoys from Saint-Denis, brought them today in the court carriages for an audience; there are two of them, and their retinue consists of some fifty men. His majesty received them at noon, seated on the throne... These Russians play chess magnificently; our best players are schoolboys beside them."
And we should note two more features of chess in the Muscovite state at that time. Only a great demand for chess sets among the Russian population can explain the fact that craftsmen appeared who specialized only in creating chess pieces. They were then called shakhmachiki (chess dealers). They sold their wares on the markets of Moscow and other towns. It is also known that skilful ivory - and wood-carvers worked in the Armoury Chamber, the great royal workship in the Kremlin, where they produced chess sets for the court.
From the time when the grand princes of Moscow began to be styled tsars (1547), chess, where the main piece was called the tsar, came to be regarded as a royal game. The cult of chess, which arose at court as early as the sixteenth century, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible - who, according to contemporary reports, died while playing - became particularly intense at the time of Alexei Mikhailovich (1645-1676).
Impressed by what he had seen Jakob Reutenfels wrote about the method of educating the royal children: "Dancing, fist-fighting and other noble exercises common with us are not permitted at all among the Russians. Shakhmaty, as they call it, the celebrated Persian game of chess, royal in both its name and in its laws, they play every day, developing their minds by this to an amazing degree."
While still small, a tsarevich was provided with chess sets in his apartments. Surviving manuscript documents from the Armoury Chamber in Moscow, for example, tell us that on the 4th of January 1636 a wooden chess set and board were bought for three altyns (three-kopeck pieces) and two dengas (half-kopecks) in the Vegetable Market for Alexei Mikhailovich, who was then not yet seven years old, while on the 13th of January that same year three ivory chess sets were bought for 24 altyns and 6 dengas; it was also stated there that in 1676 the artist Ivan Saltanov decorated some small chess pieces with gold, silver and paints for the four-year-old Tsarevich Peter Alexeyevich (the future Peter the Great).
It is interesting to note that it was not uncommon to spend time over the chessboard in the female apartments of the royal court. Here is a typical instruction: "In the year 194 (1686) on the 18th day of January, by command of their majesties, Mikhailo Timofeyevich Likhachev, the nobleman of the Boyars' Council, gave orders to purchase for the apartments of Her Highness, the High-Born Tsarevna and Grand Princess Martha Alexeyevna, a chessboard and chess set of fish or elephant ivory of good workmanship."
It was a well-known fact not only in Russia that chess was the favourite pastime of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. It was not by chance, therefore, that Joachim Skultet, the ambassador of Brandenburg, on the second journey to Moscow, where he arrived on the 16th of August 1675, included among the gifts to the tsar a valuable chess set. This comprised silver chess pieces and a table, which four men could barely carry. This chess set has survived well down to the present day as an example of fine jewellery work. All the pieces are depicted in motion: a warrior running with a club, a galloping horse with a rider, an elephant with a warrior seated on it, the king in chain-mail, the queen, and, finally, soldiers with muskets.
Casting a glance over the course of development of chess in Russia over the following hundred years, the eighteenth century, it is possible to note new phenomena arising from quite a number of causes, above all from immense changes in Russian life and from the progress of chess as such. We can observe a narrowing of the social milieu in which chess was cultivated. Craftsmen were by now already specializing in the ' production of expensive chess sets from ivory, porcelain etc., which were intended for the well-to-do members of society.
At the beginning of the century Peter the Great did much for the spread of chess in court circles and among the nobility. Chess was Peter's favourite leisure-time pursuit throughout the whole of his b'fe. He did not forget his chess even during his military campaigns, for which he had special soft chessboards made of leather. One of these has survived and is now on display together with other items belonging to Peter the Great in the Hermitage in St.Petersburg.
Peter also taught the game to his son, as he considered chess an indispensable element of a child's education. At his command, on the 28th of October 1697 chessboards were painted in gold for his son Alexei "in size one arshin (71 cm) wide, of good workmanship".
Under Peter the Great in winter assemblies - gatherings of nobles, held in rotation at the homes of high officials - chess had a prominent place. Among the officials, who organized assemblies where Peter himself played chess, were Generalissimo Prince Alexander Menshikov, Admiral Count Fiodor Apraksin, and the diplomats, Senator Andrei Matveyev and Prince Boris Kurakin.
A curious report has also survived of one of such assemblies organized in Moscow by the former vice-president of the Holy Synod and Archbishop of Novgorod, Theodosius of Yanovo (nicknamed Frantsishka). In 1731 Silvester of Holm, Metropolitan of Kazan, wrote in indignation about him: "He, Frantsishka, when in Moscow, left the service of the church and the rules prescribed for a monk, and organized assemblies at his house with music and entertained himself with cards and chess, and in this he is insatiable for amusement; instead of singing of the night-time offices, they say, he enjoyed himself and obliged others to do it. And he, Frantsishka, ordered his servant, Taras, to sell the old bells from the bell-tower of his Moscow chapel, so that they did not disturb him playing chess all night and then having enough sleep."17
In the mid-eighteenth century and later chess ceased to be so popular, and people frequently amused themselves at assemblies by playing card-games for money. Nevertheless, at this time too, there were isolated passionate lovers of the game in court circles, including Count Cyril Razumovsky, the favourite of Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great's daughter. But it was not these who determined the standard of play. There were in Russia chess-players, who, lacking grand titles, displayed a profound interest in the game and played it well. It was possible to find such enthusiasts as Vasily Tatishev, the famous Russian historian and stateman, who for a number of years was in charge of the state factories in the Urals. Sources inform us that, when in 1734 he arrived to examine the Yegoshikhinsky Copper Works (on the site of present-day Perm), he started to teach the workers the game of chess.
Catherine the Great too was a chess-player. At her orders tables were set with chessboards at the royal residence in Tsarskoye Selo, and in the Palace at Pokrovskoye near Moscow: she brought elements of ostentation to the game. Evidence has also survived of her favourite Grigory Potemkin's love for the game. At the time a quatrain was going around, which jeered at his military "achievements" and was composed, presumably, by the great Russian general, Alexander Suvorov:
Chess he plays with his one hand,
The other conquers peoples and land.
One fool of his strikes foe and friend
The other tramps the coasts from end to end'.
Suvurov himself also loved playing chess. One of his contemporaries told of an episode which demonstrates the unusual self-control of the general. It took place during the capture of Ochakov from the Turks in the summer of 1788. Suvorov was wounded in the storming of the fortress. The French surgeon, Masseau, was summoned to him. On entering the tent, the doctor found him covered in blood, but playing chess with his adjutant, and only after much persistence could the general be persuaded to let his would be dressed.
Already by the eighteenth century, word of the mastery of Russian chess-players had spread far beyond the bounds of the country itself. The English historian William Coxe wrote in 1772: "The Russians are
esteemed great proficients in chess." These words were written at a time when there were famous chess-players in a number of European countries, when in France and Italy the noted theoretical works of Philador and the Masters of Modena were appearing, which attracted attention in many countries of Europe.
And although little evidence has reached us about Russian chess-players of the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, taken together as a whole it gives us some idea of their creative aspirations, and also of the peculiarities of chess life at that time. Contemporary memoirs make mention of the names of the strongest in the Russian capital - the lawyer Ivan Sokolov, the writer and official Nikolai Brusilov, the poet and senator Dmitry Baranov, and the dramatist Alexander Kopyev. Their homes attracted many lovers of the game. They made a serious study of chess, held their own opinions on various problems and were not only strong players but also connoisseurs of the theory of the game.
At the end of the eighteenth century Russian chess-players, promoting a serious attitude to the game, published in St.Petersburg (1791) a small work by the outstanding American public figure and philosopher, Benjamin Franklin: The Morals of Chess. It was printed in Russian under the title: Rules for the game of draughts, compiled by Franklin*. The game of chess, Franklin noted, "should not be considered a squandering of one's free time, from it is possible to derive many spiritual qualities, which, being useful, deserve respect throughout a man's life."
With their profound investigations into the game Russian chess-players kept pace with their age, while in practical strength, judging by the contemporary opinions of foreign experts, they were considered some of the best in Europe. Only the fact that chess in Russia had already reached a fairly high level at the end of the eighteenth century, can explain the emergence in the following century of a galaxy of Russian masters, whose activities received world recognition and enabled a national school of chess to form.
The study of the thousand-year history of chess in Russia demonstrates that in the course of many centuries of development the ancient Eastern game turned into one of the elements of national culture, closely bound up with other aspects of the intellectual life of the people.
In many ways it is possible to consider the emergence of the first Russian masters in the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century as a natural consequence of the millennial history of development of chess in Russia. Petrov, Chigorin, Alekhin - the names of these great players are each linked with an important stage in the development of the art of chess in Russia, and in the creation of a national school of chess, the best traditions of which are today being developed by Russian players.
As early as the 1820s, Alexander Petrov (1794-1867) was acknowledged as the best chess-player in Russia, and his name stood out among those of other luminaries of the age. From that time to the end of his life, he never met an opponent in the country to match him at the board.
Petrov was also a theoretician of the game, the creator of a number of openings. One opening still bears his name - "Petrov's Defence, or the Russian Game" (1. e4 e5 2. Kf3 Kf6). His book, The Game of Chess, systematized, with the addition of Philador's games and commentaries on these, which appeared in the five volumes totalling 500 pages in StPetersburg in 1824, became a classic work. Three years earlier a book of instruction for beginners, On the Game of Chess written by Ivan Butrimov, had appeared in the Russian capital. Petrov's book introduced a number of ideas - on active defence, on the significance of the first moves in a game, on the role of precise calculation in evaluating positions etc., and represented a new word in the literature of chess.
Petrov's work also played an important role in the popularizing of chess. This game, the first Russian chess master wrote, "through its great demands on understanding and calculation, can, by all rights, be called learned, profound and extremely engaging? In the scope of the questions it raised and the seriousness and accessibility of its explanations the book was one of the best chess manuals of its time. It was highly esteemed by contemporaries and became a handbook for several generations of Russian players.
Petrov did much to encourage public interest in chess in the country and for the emergence in Russia of a whole galaxy of masters - Karl Vanish (1813-1872), an outstanding theoretician of the game, Ilya Shumov (1819-1881), a remarkable player and chess remantic, the brothers Sergei and Dmitry Urusov, and others.
There are only a handful of masters in the history of chess who, like Petrov, have happily combined the gift of an outstanding practitioner of the game with the talents of a theoretician, composer, man of letters, popularizer and organizer of chess.
Petrov, together with his pupils and contemporaries, believed in the inexhaustibility of the game of chess and regarded it as an art. It was they who introduced the expression "the art of chess". As early as 1840 Petrov wrote in the Literary Gazette in a review of La Bourdonnais's book The Latest Outline of the Game of Chess published in Moscow in 1839: "Books enable one to perfect one's game and therefore they are indispensable for those who want to grasp all the secrets of the art of chess."22 Subsequently Vanish, Kroneberg, Shumov and other players wrote in their works that there is much in chess - and, above all, inspiration, the creative aspect of the game - which links it to art. We know, too, that later Chigorin and Alekhin perceived the game in the same way. "The goal as I see it", Alekhin wrote, "is to be found in scientific and artistic achievements, which places chess alongside other art forms."
The beginning and middle of the last century also saw the organization of the first Russian chess clubs, the appearance of the first monthly magazine, Shakhmatny Listok (The Chess Bulletin; 1859-63), and the emergence of Russian chess composition. As a part of cultural life chess began to attract more and more attention from writers, scholars, musicians and artists. The greatest geniuses of Russian literature -Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev and Fiodor Dostoyevsky - had a high regard for the game and spent hours of their leisure time on it, as did the chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev and many others. Here are a few typical examples.
On the 30th of September (12th of October) 1832, Pushkin wrote in a letter to his wife: "I thank you, my dear, that you are learning to play chess. It is indispensable in any well-organized family: I will prove it to you later."24
From his Spasskoye estate Turgenev wrote to his friend, the writer Sergei Aksakov, on the 29th of June (11th of July) 1853: "Do you know how I chiefly occupy myself? I play chess with the neighbours, or even alone, taking games out of books. Through exercises I have acquired some skill. I also spend much time on music". Typical of him too is another declaration made in a letter to the literary critic Pavel Annenkov at the end of the same year on the 25th of November (17th of December): "In St.Petersburg I shall live for my literary work, my circle of friends, music - and for chess. I should say that I have made a fervent chess-player of myself."
While working on War and Peace Tolstoy wrote in a letter from Yasnaya Poliana to his wife's elder brother, Alexander Bers, on the 28th of October (9th of November) 1864: "Do you play chess? I cannot imagine this life without chess, books and hunting."26
The contemporaries were very much impressed by I. Shumov's work "A Collection of Scachographic* and Other Chess Problems, Incl. a Full chess Primer, Polytical, Humorous and Fantastic Checkmates", published in St. Petersburg in 1867. It was the firstRussian book on chess composition. The chess magazines of the time published enthusiastic reviews of this work and announced competitions to solve Shumov's chess compositions. The French Strategic wrote that "this book of the Russian chess composer has a fairly long name under which a truly happy fate of chess is hidden. On opening the book, one can see a huge sword of arrayed chess pieces over the black king. This tells of Shumov's deep knowledge of the chess battle field and of the lofty game of chess, unbounded joy reigns here."
Much was done by Petrov, Yashin, Shumov and other players of the mid-nineteenth century to develop international links. Their games, problems and theoretical researches were published in the chess periodicals of the time - the French Palamede, Regence and Strategic, the English Chess Player's Chronicle and Chess Player's Magazine, the German Schachzeitung and the American Chess Monthly. They corresponded with the greatest foreign masters - La Bourdonnais, Saint-Amant, Staunton, Leventhal, von der Lasa and others. In 1867 the English periodical Chess Player's Magazine in an article devoted to Petrov acknowledged that he and his pupils had already begun to show their influence on the game of chess in Europe.
This influence and the international links were strengthened later thanks to the international appearances of Mikhail Chigorin (1850-1908). He was the first Russian chess-player to compete for the title of world champion. His matches against Wilhelm (William) Steinitz, which took place in the Cuban capital, Havana, in 1889 and 1892, and their two-game telegram-match in 1891 and 1892 attracted the attention of chess-lovers around the world, not only for their sporting tension, but also for their high creative achievements.
Due to the many-sided activities of Chigorin and his associates in organizing clubs, the first Ail-Russian tournaments and other competitions, at the turn of the twentieth century Russia had become one of the leading countries in the world for its level of chess play. Important international tournaments and matches were also organized here. Already at that time World Champion Emmanuel Lasker called Moscow the El Dorado of Chess, and Ex-Champion Steinitz, congratulating Chigorin on a splendid victory in an international tournament in Budapest in 1896, wrote: "Your victory has brought great glory to Russia, which has done most recently to facilitate the development of chess, for which it undoubtedly has your genius and authority to thank."28
At the beginning of this century under the beneficial influence of Chigorin's activities a new generation of chess talents emerged in Russia, including the future world champion Alexander Alekhin (1892-1946).
The development of chess continued in Russia after the Revolution of 1917. "A cultural explosion" is how the first post-revolutionary period in the life of Russia was described abroad. One area of culture in which the powerful influence of the Revolution was felt was the world of chess.
Chess's exceptional position with regard to all games and the necessity of popularizing it amongst the broad masses were things V.I. Lenin pointed out more than once. Knowing of this, the students of the All-Russia Artistic and Technical Workshops produced specially for Lenin a chess-table and a set of pieces, which they presented to him on the fifth anniversary of the Revolution, together with membership card No. 1 of the Moscow Chess Society and a document about his election to the post of Honorary President of the society.
Some of the most eminent figures in the new state, were also lovers of chess: Mikhail Frunze, Valerian Kuibyshev, Nikolai Krylenko, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Anatoly Lunacharsky and others. Lunacharsky spoke of the beneficial role of chess in the education of the young in his report "Art and Youth": "Chess is an educational game, an extremely useful one. When you achieve great art in this game, then it is real art."
Soviet players raised the prestige of the country still further in the realm of chess culture. Three international tournaments held in Moscow in the 1920s and 1930s, to which outstanding foreign players were invited to participate created a great impression in the world of chess. The competitions took place in splendid surroundings - the House of Soviets (now the Hotel Metropol) in 1925, the Museum of Fine Arts (now the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts) in 1935 and in the Hall of Columns of the House of Unions in 1936. The role these competitions played in the development of chess in this country is demonstrated, for example, by the real "chess fever" which gripped the entire country in 1925. Nikolai Krylenko wrote of this: "For the USSR the tournament above all acted as a push, raising to unprecedented heights the interest of the broad working masses of our country in chess, as a cultural tool, capable of seizing and directing the broadest masses on that road of culture of the intellect, to which chess points. In particular, as a definite source of rational leisure, producing at the same time extremely rich experiences of a purely artistic nature, chess from this moment is in the foreground.'
Many years have gone by since. The regard for chess as one of the leading forms of sport and a very high art form contributed to the fact that for several decades our country has led the world in chess, its players holding the highest individual and team titles in the world.
As early as the 1930s the leading foreign chess-players declared that chess had become a people's game in the USSR. "The Soviet Union", ex-world champion Emmanuel Lasker wrote in November 1937, "has made chess, which was previously only available to the few, available to the broad masses. The cultural value of this thousand-year game has been enriched by the creative powers which were hidden in the people. Never and nowhere before has such an experiment taken place." '
Statements in the same vein came from the famous British chess-player George Thomas, the Dutch Grand Master and World Champion Max Euwe, and the Austrian Grand Master Rudolf Spielmann. "I am impressed", Spielmann wrote, "not so much by the colossal number of chess-players in the USSR, approaching two million, but by the high standard of their game. In a mass chess-match, played on, let us say, one thousand boards, between players from the Soviet Union and players from all other countries the Soviet Union would be guaranteed victory."
The famous American Grand Master Frank Marshall, calling the Soviet Union "the greatest chess country on Earth", wrote that he dreamed of organizing a telegram-match between the USSR and the USA, since the young masters of the two countries were the strongest in the world. As we know, this match was arranged in 1945 - soon after the Allied victory in the Second World War. The wireless chess-match between the USSR and the USA ended in triumph for the Soviet players, who won with a score of 14 1/2 :4 1/2. This match marked the start of a whole series of snorting and creative achievements for Soviet masters in international events. They were victorious again in the next matches between teams from the Soviet Union and the United States, and in meetings with the strongest national teams from Britain, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, West Germany, Argentina and many other countries, as well as in a number of post-war tournaments. Soviet grand masters have taken first place in almost all world-wide Olympics in which they have taken part since 1952.
Eight players have received the laurels of world champion since the war, seven of them were grand masters from the USSR: Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal, Tigran Petrosian, Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov. Soviet players have also become women's world champions - Liudmila Rudenko, Yelizaveta Bykova, Olga Rubtsova, Nona Gaprindashvili and MayaChiburdanidze.
Chess does not only have an interesting past and brilliant present -the prospects for future development seem no less attractive. The game will continue to be a companion in man's life, developing the personality and a sense of aesthetics. And however great the technological developments in chess-playing computers, they will never be able to compete with humans in the creation of works of chess art bearing the stamp of imagination and beauty.
It is common knowledge that one of the aesthetic attractions of the game of chess is its great number of paradoxes. There is yet one more, seemingly superficial paradox, which is, though, probably chess's most surprising and most beautiful paradox: having originated as a depiction of war, the greatest tragedy in human life, over the course of the centuries it has been in existence the game has turned into the embodiment of human wisdom and brotherhood, a means of strengthening friendship between nations, who inscribed on the banner of the International Chess Federation: Gens una sumus - we are one family. And this is what gives chess its immortality!
* In Russia from early times pieces used for playing chess and other board game were generally called shashki - draughts.
* It was how I. Shumov called depictive problems. This adjective is formed of two Greec words: scacho ("chess") and grapho ("write'). According to I. Shumov scachography is the art of depicting on a chessboard various objects and abstract notions.