If you play chess – for reasons of increasing your knowledge or for fun – then you know that it's a game of skill, strategy and endless possibilities. Yet many people never search for answers about the origins of the game and its structure. For example, have you ever wondered why the chess board is black and white?
It may seem like a small detail, but even the smallest details can impact how you play this sport, sometimes years after being incorporated into the game. The modern game of chess is internationally understood as a board game that is played between two players with a chess board. Each chess board is square-shaped and contains 64 squares arranged on an 8 x 8 grid in a black and white checkered pattern.
The earliest version of the concept that became chess is associated with folklore. The phrase describing chess as "the royal game" tells of a king's desperate attempt to find a challenging form of entertainment. Bored with the games that he had grown accustomed to, the king commissioned a poor mathematician to come up with a new game, chaturanga.
The game originally had two armies each lead by a king. The goal was also simple: in order to defeat the opponent, one had to capture the enemy's king. This version of the game was played on an 8 x 8 square board. The king loved the game so much, he offered to give the poor mathematician anything he wanted. The poor mathematician's response was to have wheat grains exponentially doubled on each square until the 64th square. Realizing that there wasn't enough wheat grains in his kingdom to satisfy the demand, the king was astounded by the mathematician's genius. Chaturanga evolved into the game of chess.
Today, the lights squares are widely accepted as the “white” squares while each dark square is called a “black” square. While the traditional board used is commonly seen as a white and black checkered board, earlier versions of the chess boards were also divided into 64 squares, but all of the squares were the same color. Chess boards were all one color until the thirteenth century when Europeans brought the checkered light and dark patterns. This made it easier to see the opponent's moves, which chess legend Howard Staunton promoted.
In doing so, he also standardized a basic order by which chess pieces are arranged on a board, as well as their shapes: the king being the tallest piece in the set with a cross on the top of his head, the knight being depicted as a horse head, and the rook being characterized as a castle. This clearly distinguishable standardized shape became the Stauton pattern and is still the style required for most competitions.
Each square on a chess board is not necessarily colored white and black. The basic idea is for each board to consist of both light and dark contrasting colors. In higher level games, boards are usually wooden with contrasting shades of brown. Lower level informal play sometimes also uses vinyl or cardboard, while decorative chess boards are made out of glass or marble.
Dark and light, black and white, red and black or glass and opaque, the chess board has certainly come a long way, and so has the game of chess. What was once deemed as an intellectual pastime for kings is now played all over the world. Some of the greatest players in the game have also started very young. With the right chess board and a worthy opponent, even the littlest challenger can become a chess champion. NYChessKids provides the perfect environment for children and parents who love to play chess. The new Learning Center also allows for chess instruction and a wide variety of activities, tournaments and championships.
For all things chess, visit NYChessKids.