views updated May 08 2018


The Jewish contribution to chess on an appreciable scale dates from the middle of the 19th century. There is no basis for the claim that Jews invented chess, or that King Solomon played the game, as is related in the Midrash (Ginzberg, Legends 4, 172–3). Nor was chess known to Jews in the talmudic period, which ended before the game could have reached them from Persia. This view is generally maintained despite *Rashi's identification of nardeshir with chess, in his comment on Ketubbot 61b. All that can be inferred from Rashi's rendering of nardeshir, a game probably played with dice, as ishkukei, is that the commentator was familiar with some word cognate to the French échecs. Ishkukei is the same name used by *Judah Halevi when he refers in his book Kuzari to the game as an intellectual exercise (pt. 5:20, "6th Principle"). Moritz *Steinschneider suggests in his Schach bei den Juden (1873) that Jews first became acquainted with chess in the tenth century. He mentions a tenth century convert, Ali of Taberi-stan, who recommended the game for its therapeutic value, and Moses Sefardi (11th century), baptized as *Petrus Alfonsi, who in his writings described chess as a knightly virtue. In the tenth century, Arabs introduced the game, which they called shatranj into Europe via Spain, and by the eleventh century it was widely played by Jews in that country and in Provence. The Persian-Arabic nomenclature for the pieces was known to at least one member of a famous Spanish family, Bonsenior Ibn Yaḥya, whose description of the game is preserved by Leone *Modena (Ma'adannei Melekh, 16th century; with French translation as Délices Royales, 1864). It seems that Abraham *Ibn Ezra (12th century) knew the game. An excellent verse description of the game attributed to him has been preserved by Leone Modena (translated into English by Nina Davis in her Songs of Exile, 1901). The metrical and verbal skill of the original suggests Ibn Ezra as author but the main difficulty about ascribing it to him is the reference to the double pawn move. The reference may, however, be an interpolation, and Steinschneider doubts the ascription to Ibn Ezra. The invention of printing crystallized the rules of chess and helped to terminate the evolutionary stage of the game. Nevertheless local varieties survived in the East and in Europe into the 19th century. A study of the Persian-Arabic names of the pieces used by Ibn Yaḥya, and retained in modern terminology, provides a key to the development of the terms for chessmen in various countries and languages.

Names of the Chess Pieces

The names of the chess pieces vary in different languages.


The name of the principal piece of the game varied only locally, according to the ruler's title.

rook castle

Called Ruḥe even in Ibn Yaḥya's time, was the piece with the furthest ranging maneuverability on the board. Its history is preserved in the English name "rook," a corruption of ruḥ which in Italian became rocca and in French roche. Both of these words mean "rock," and from this developed the concept of a fortress or tower, i.e., "castle" in English, and ẓeri'aḥ in Hebrew.


In Ibn Yaḥya's time, this piece was called in Persian pil ("elephant") and in Arabic alfil. Alfil was preserved in the Spanish and corrupted into Italian alfiere and thence into the French le four, and the German Laeufer. The German name, which means "runner," gave modern Hebrew its name for this piece, raẓ.


This piece was originally called shegall (a Persian word), meaning a consort or mistress. Its English name and its modern Hebrew name, malkah, came from this.


The knight was always a horseman, for which the Hebrew name is parash.


The pawn, a foot soldier, used to be called ḥayyal in Hebrew, but is known now as ragli.

Chess Playing among Jews

There were diverse views among Jewish scholars as to whether the playing of chess should be encouraged. *Maimonides, in his commentary on the Mishnah (Sanh. 3:3), expresses disapproval of chess when it is played for money and couples it with nard ("backgammon"), which is played with dice. The halakhah disapproved of chess as time-wasting, an attitude paralleled in Byzantine and Canon law. When the game first began to become respectable, it was a pastime for invalids and women. In fact, Israel Abrahams suggests (Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (1896), ch. 22) that it developed as a woman's game. But there was no unanimity on this subject in this period. *Kalonymus condemned the game, while Menahem ben Solomon *Meiri and the Sefer *Ḥasidim in casual references seem to express approval. Similar dissension existed among Christian authorities. Men as different as Peter *Damiani and Jan Hus condemned it. On the other hand, many popes played it. There is a legend of a Jewish father who recognized a pope as his son by a move that the latter played. Gradually, however, opposition to the game abated, both among Jews and Christians. Thus, when games were generally condemned by the rabbis of Cremona, after the plague of 1575, chess was excluded from the indictment. Similarly, in an opinion given by the rabbi of Ancona in 1718, chess was sharply distinguished from gambling games and time-wasting games. The later authorities, with the exception of Elijah de *Vidas and Elijah ha-Kohen of Smyrna (Shevet Musar, 1712), all seem to approve of chess. Modern rabbinic opinion, expressed in *Lampronti's Paḥad Yiẓḥak, Abraham Abele *Gombiner's Magen Avraham, and by Moses *Isserles, holds that chess is a proper pastime for the Jew, as long as it is not played for money. On this principle, chess may be played on the Sabbath. It should not be inferred from this that there is any extant valid rabbinic authority against professional chess, although Maimonides' views remain influential. Therefore, it has always been possible for an intellectual and pious Jew to learn Torah and play chess. Indeed, players as great as Akiva *Rubinstein, Aaron *Nimzovitch, and members of the Chajes family have emerged from yeshivot. In fairness it should be added that professional chess involves a mental effort that leaves little energy for scholarship. Moses *Mendelssohn unwittingly anticipated chess as a vocation when he said: "For a game it is too serious, and for a serious occupation, it is too much of a game" ("Fuer Spiel ist es zu viel Ernst, fuer Ernst zu viel Spiel"). It is believed that Mendelssohn's friendship with *Lessing originated in their games of chess. The governments of the U.S.S.R. and similar authoritarian societies encourage players such as the engineer Mikhail *Botvinnik and the musician Mark Taimanov, who can more properly be described as professionals or players by vocation than as amateurs. Thus it is not surprising that averages as well as standards, in the modern game, have been raised. In the Marxian formula, quality emerges from quantity, and this applies to Jewish as well as to other Soviet chess players.

The growth of European interest in chess, whether as game, art, or science, seems to have traveled from the Iberian Peninsula to Siberia. It was in the 19th century that a Jewish name appeared in French chess: Aron Alexandre (1766–1850). Little is known about his play, but his writings survive (Encyclopédie des Echecs, 1837). By the middle of the century, Jewish names began to emerge frequently as chess was established in the salons of Paris, which were frequented by German and Russian Jews, and in London and Berlin. The Jewish masters of this period included Johann Jakob Loewenthal, a Hungarian refugee settled in London; David Harrwitz (1823–1884), in Paris; Bernardt Horwitz (1807–1885), one of the Berlin Pleiades settled in Paris; and Ignaz Kolisch (later Baron von Kolisch) a Viennese merchant banker and a Rothschild protégé. A number of writers emerged from this group. They include S. Alapin (1856–1923) and Ernest Karl Falkbeer (1819–1885), who invented counter-gambits; Leopold Hoffer (1842–1913), whose books are still read; and Shimon Abramovich Winawer (1838–1920), a Polish Jew, whose variation of the French defense was successfully revived by Alekhine and Botvinnik. Another prizewinner was Samuel Rosenthal (1837–1902). Greatest was Wilhelm (William) *Steinitz, who was world champion from 1866 to 1894. Steinitz' writings constitute a major contribution to chess theory. His theories were accepted as basic by such great theoreticians as Emanuel *Lasker, Siegbert *Tarrasch, Savielly Grigorievich *Tartakover, and Nimzovitch. Steinitz also distinguished himself at blindfold chess. In the 20th century two Jewish players, George *Koltanowski and Mikhail (Miguel) *Najdorf, established a remarkable record by playing more than 50 blindfold chess games simultaneously.

As the 19th century advanced, more Jews appeared in the top rank of tournament and match play: Isidor Gunsberg, Max Weiss (1857–1927), Erich Cohn (1884–1918), Berthold Englisch (1851–1897), Rudolf Charousek, David Markelovich *Janowski, and Jacques Mieses (1865–1954). All were prizewinners in the big international events. The outstanding figure was Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, a preeminent tournament player, who won seven great events. His status as a theoretician was such that he was acclaimed "Praeceptor Germanorum."

Above them all towered Emanuel *Lasker, a mathematical philosopher as well as a chess giant. If Steinitz is the chess player's theorist, Lasker is the chess player's chess player. His doctrine was the importance of effort; Kampf ("Struggle," 1907), is the title of one of his books. His immense talent was most clearly revealed in the matches in which he defended his world championship title for 28 years. In 1921 he finally lost the title to the Cuban player, Capablanca. The number of Jewish players continued to grow in the 20th century. In the early years there were the Austrian Carl Schlechter (1874–1918) a drawing-master, the German Jacques Mieses, the Serbian Boris Kostić (1887–1963), and Edward Lasker (1885–1981) of Berlin and the U.S. – a friend and fellow student of Emanuel Lasker. Then came the émigré Russians, or Russian Poles, Ossip Bernstein (1882–1962), Savielly Tartakover, and Akiva Rubinstein, a genius who might have risen to world championship but for the exigencies of World War i. Great players between the World Wars are Rudolf Spielmann (1883–1942), Richard *Réti, Julius Breyer, Aaron Nimzovitch, and Salo *Flohr of Czechoslovakia, a child prodigy and a refugee from a Russian pogrom. In the 1930s there emerged in the U.S., among others, Isaac Kasdan (1905–?), Samuel *Reshevsky, who began his chess career as an eight-year-old in Poland, and Reuben *Fine, a Capablanca-type player who retired from the game to study psychology. Several of the names mentioned above are important in chess theory. Tarrasch perfected the statement of the Steinitzian logic. Rubinstein nearly perfected it in play. Breyer, Tartakover, Nimzovitch, and Alekhine are responsible for restating and refining the theory. Tartakover's Hypermoderne Schachpartie (1924) and Nimzovitch's Mein System (1925), though a collection of clever ideas, are source books for the theory of the fluid center, the fianchetto, blockade theory, and other technical aspects of development.

Meanwhile Soviet Russian Jews were becoming prominent: Ilya Kan (1909– ), Grigori Yakelovich Levenfish (Loewenfisch; 1889–1961), Mikhail Iudovich (1911– ), and Abraham (1878–1943) and Ilya Rabinovich (1891–1942) of Moscow and Leningrad. Eventually, in the mid-1930s, Mikhail Botvinnik of the U.S.S.R. drew a match with Flohr, and shared a first prize with Capablanca in 1936. In the later 1930s, the teams of the Slav countries and of the Russian émigrés in France and Belgium were almost entirely composed of Jewish players. New names included: Paulin Frydman (1905– ) of Warsaw; Andre Amolodovich Lilienthal (1911–?) and Lázló Szabo (1919– ) of Hungary; Arthur Dunkelblum (1906–?) of Belgium; Vladimir Vuković (1898–?) of Yugoslavia; Salo Landau (1903–1943) in Holland; and J. Zuckerman (1903–1940) in France. Some of these fell victim to the war and the Holocaust. A few survived because they were taking part in a tournament in Buenos Aires when World War ii broke out. The absence of Jews from many East European teams in postwar Olympiads was a reminder of the Jewish tragedy. The only exceptions are the Hungarian survivors, Szabo, E. Gereben (1907–?), and Lilienthal. The last-named took refuge from the Nazis in his native U.S.S.R. Nevertheless, the Yugoslav and Czechoslovak teams are believed to contain many players of Jewish origin. At the Tel Aviv chess Olympiad in 1964, many Jews, Samuel Schweber among the best of them, appeared on a number of South American teams. Western Europe is no longer dominated by Jewish players, as it was before World War ii. Germany, Scandivania, Spain, and Italy have never had many Jewish chessmasters. Some of the European masters escaped to Israel, and chess was developed there by players such as Joseph Porath (1909–?), Menahem Oren (1901–1962), Moshe *Czerniak, Aryeh Mohelever (1904–?), Joseph Aloni (1905–?), Rafi Persitz (1934– ), and others who fostered a high standard.

British Jewish players include Gerald Abrahams (1907–1980), known for the "Abrahams Defense" and as the author of The Chess Mind (1951), Technique in Chess (1961), and other books on chess; Victor Buerger (1903–?), born in Latvia; Harry Golombek (1911– 1994), three times British champion, chess correspondent of the Times, official of the Fédération Internationale des Echecs and editor of some well-known collections of games; David Joseph (1896–?), famous in the end game field; and the very strong part-Jewish player, Victor Wahltuch (1875–1960). The British championship has been won by Ernest Klein (1910–?), originally from Vienna, Dr. Stephan Faze-kas (1898–1967), who came from Czechoslovakia, and Daniel Abraham Yanofsky (1925– ), a brilliant Canadian amateur who won against Botvinnik. The ex-Russian master, O. List (1887–1964), also played for Britain.

In the first official contests between the U.S.S.R. and the western world after World War ii, the radio matches of 1946, the United Kingdom team had five Jewish players, the Soviet team five out of a total of ten players and the United States seven. In general, after World War ii, Jews came to dominate the American chess scene. They include the veteran Edward Lasker, Israel Horowitz (1907–1973), Abraham Kupchik (1892–?), Arthur Bisguier (1929–?), Fred Reinfeld (1910–1964), Arnold Denker (1914–?), Imre Konig (1901–?), who came from Yugoslavia; Herman Steiner (1905–1955), one of several Hungarian players of the same name; Reshevsky, Fine, and in the 1960s, Robert "Bobby" Fischer. Canada was dominated by Daniel Abraham Yanofsky and Australia by Lajos Steiner (1903–?) and Gerald Koshnitzki. Outstanding players in South Africa were Kurt Dreyer, David Friedgood, and Wolfgang Heidenfeld, who later moved to Ireland.

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest phenomena in modern chess was the rise of Brooklyn-born Bobby Fischer, who was only 13 when he began to rank as a leading player. Until 1968 circumstances prevented him from challenging the world champion, though some of his international performances were great. His contemporaries were the Latvian Mikhail *Tal and David Bronstein from Moscow, who drew a match for the world championship. Julio Kaplan (1951– ) of Latin America emerged as one of the leading juveniles of the late 1960s.

Jewish world champions include first Steinitz, who held the title for 25 years, until it was wrested from him by Emanuel Lasker, who held it from 1894 to 1921. Even during the periods when the title was held by non-Jews, most of the finalists were Jews including Rubinstein, perhaps the greatest end-game player who ever lived, Nimzovitch, and Flohr. In 1948 Botvinnik, a Soviet Jew, won the title from some of the strongest players in the world, including Reshevsky, and held it intermittently for nearly 20 years. His challengers were in turn Bronstein, who drew the series of matches; Vassily Vassilyevich Smyslov (1921– ), a Russian reputed to be partly Jewish, who won the title and lost the return match; Tal, who also won the title and lost the return, largely through ill-health; and finally Petrosian, an Armenian non-Jew, who defeated Botvinnik in 1967. In 1969, Petrosian was defeated by Boris Spassky, son of a Jewish mother, who emerged as the new star of the chess world. In the zonal tournaments in which today the challengers for the championship reveal their potential – and in the great Soviet tournaments – Jews are placed high. Among them are Leonid Stein (1934–1973), Yefim Petrovich Geller (1925– ), the musician Mark Taimanov (1926– ), and Viktor Lvovich Korchnoy (1931– ). Jews are also prominent in the realm of end-game composition. Some of the best work on end-play is by Reuben Fine and the Soviet player Levenfish. Other important names in this field are Réti, Frederic Lazard (1883–1949), Vladimir Bron (1909– ), Abraham Gurvitch (1894–1933), David Joseph, and Grochin. In general, the Jewish contribution to theory has been immense. Steinitz, and after him Lasker and Tarrasch, taught the chess world the basic strategy of the game, and established chess as a science. Rubinstein may be said to have demonstrated this science in his beautiful play. To Réti, Nimzovitch, and Tartakover the world owes the refinement of strategic theories. As far as the literature of chess is concerned, masterpieces on opening technique have been produced by Russian Jews, including Yuri Lvovich Auerbach (1922– ).

The year 1972 was of great importance in the history of chess. For the first time in 36 years, with the victory of Robert (Bobby) Fischer over Boris Spassky, the World Championship passed out of Russian hands and, for the first time in 160 years (i.e., since Paul Morphy), the chess world was dominated by an American. In addition, the match was more spectacular, and the superiority of the victor more pronounced than is usual in World Championships, and aroused unprecedented interest in the game among the general public.

Fischer qualified as one of the challengers by winning the Palma Interzonal Tournament in 1970 (15 wins and 7 draws out of 23 games). Thereafter, he won three qualifying matches, against *Taimanov (6–0), Larsen (6–0) and former title holder Petrosian (6½–1½). The final against Spassky took place at Reykjavik and ran from July 11 to September 1, 1972. Fischer commenced by losing a game. Next, he forfeited a game by failing to appear (a rare occurrence in championship matches). Thereafter, he began to gain the upper hand, winning the match by 12½–8½ (7 wins, 11 draws, and 3 losses, including one by default). However, Fischer lost the World Championship in 1975 when he refused to play the challenger Vassily Karpov. Karpov gained the right to challenge by defeating Viktor Korchnoy in the final qualifying round by a score of 12½–11½.

Ten years later, in 1985, Gary *Kasparov (Jewish father), at the age of 22, became the youngest player ever to win the World Championship, taking it from Karpov 13–11. The "Kasparov era" ended in 2000, when he was defeated by Vladimir Kramnik 8½–6½. In 2005 Kasparov, called by many the greatest player of all time, announced his retirement from competitive play.


H.J.R. Murray, History of Chess, 3 vols. (1913, repr. 1962), index; H.A. Davidson, Short History of Chess (1949), index; M. Steinschneider, Schach bei den Juden (1873); I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (1896, rev. ed. 1932), ch. 22.

[Gerald Abrahams]


views updated Jun 08 2018



Chess is a classic two person board game. It is played with specially designed pieces on a square board made up of 64 alternating light and dark squares arranged in eight rows and columns. First appearing around A.D. 600, the game steadily evolved into the modern game known today. The earliest methods of production involved carving the board and pieces out of wood or stone. Today, a variety of common modern manufacturing methods such as injection molding and lithographic printing are employed to mass produce thousands of games.

The objective of the modern chess game is to force the opponent's most important piece, the king, into checkmate. This is a position in which the king cannot be moved to avoid capture. The player with the white pieces begins the game by moving a piece to another square following the rules that govern piece movement. The players alternate moves until one player is either checkmated, resigns, or there is a draw. Thousands of books have been published relating to the strategies during the three key stages of chess, including the opening, the middle game, and the end game.


While the exact time and place of chess's origin is debated, most scholars believe it was developed sometime around the sixth century A.D. It is a descendant of a game called chaturanga, which was commonly played in India during that time. (Chaturanga is derived from a much older Chinese game.) The name chaturanga is a Sanskrit word that refers to the four divisions of the Indian army, including elephants, chariots, cavalry, and infantry. These pieces became the basis for the four types of pieces in the game. Two of the key similarities between chess and chaturanga is that different pieces have different powers and victory is based on what happens to the king.

During subsequent years, chaturanga spread throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. Chaturanga was introduced to China around A.D. 750 and then to Korea and Japan by the eleventh century. In each of these places, it took on different characteristics. For example, Chinese chess has nine files and 10 ranks. It also has a boundary between the fifth and sixth ranks, which makes it a slower game than the Western version. In Persia, the game was called shtranj and it was in this form that it was introduced to Western Europe when the Moors invaded Spain. By the tenth century, the game was commonly played throughout Europe and Russia..

Shtranj caught the interest of philosophers, kings, poets, and other nobility, and eventually became known as the "royal game." The best players wrote down the moves of each of their games. This practice eventually led to the development of puzzles in which the solver had to find solutions, like finding checkmate in a specific number of moves. During the fifteenth century some significant rule changes were made. For example, castling was introduced, as was the initial two-square pawn advance. One of the most important changes was the transformation of the counselor piece into the queen, the strongest chess piece. These improvements helped make the game popular throughout Europe. Some of the best players during this time—Ruy Lopez and Damiano—put together chess instruction books that also helped to make the game more widely accepted.

The rules and piece design steadily evolved, reaching the current standard during the early nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, chess experienced a tremendous growth in interest resulting in the development of various chess organizations and the crowning of a world champion. The first computer chess program was introduced in 1960. Steady improvements in technologies and algorithms led to the 1996 defeat of the world champion, Garry Kasparov, by a computer called Deep Blue.


Historically, the game's pieces have been both simple and highly decorated. Prior to A.D. 600, the pieces were plain. These were replaced by detailed sets depicting royalty, warriors, and animals. From the ninth to the twelfth centuries, Islamic rules prohibiting the depiction of living creatures resulted in basic pieces made from clay or stone. This change is actually thought to have increased interest in the game at the time because it made sets more widely available and was less distracting to the players. When the game spread to Europe and Russia, highly ornate sets were fashionable.

The standard set for modern chess pieces was introduced by Nathaniel Cook in 1835. His set was patented in 1849 and endorsed by the leading player of the day, Howard Staunton. Staunton's promotion of the set as the standard led to it being known as the Staunton pattern. Today, only Staunton sets are allowed in official international competitions.

A typical chess set has 32 pieces. These are broken down into two sets of 16 pieces each. In each set there are eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, one queen, and one king. The different pieces are distinguished by their appearance. The designs vary from simple plastic shapes to intricate, hand-carved statues. While piece size varies depending on the specific set, the tallest piece is typically the king, followed closely in height by the queen. The shortest, least notable pieces are the pawns. The rook has varied considerably over the years, being represented as a ship, castle turret, or a warrior in a chariot.

The chess board is square and made up of 64 alternating light and dark squares arranged in eight rows and columns. The vertical columns extending from one player to the other are known as files. The opposite rows are called ranks.

An important aspect of large scale chess piece manufacture is the process of designing the mold. A mold is a cavity machined from steel. When liquid plastic or molten metal is injected into the mold, it takes on the inverse of the mold's shape when it cools. This results in a finished piece. The mold cavity is highly polished because any flaw can result in a flawed final piece. For making chess game pieces, a two part mold can be used. To make the piece, the two mold sections are joined together and injected with the base raw material. The mold is then opened and the piece drops out. Special release agents and a tapered design help make the parts easier to remove. When molds are designed they are made slightly larger to compensate for the fact that plastic shrinks while it cools.

Raw Materials

Chess sets have been made with a number of raw materials over the years. Materials as diverse as ivory, glass, wood, clay, pewter, stone, and various metals have been used. Today, the most widely available chess sets are made of plastic. Plastic is a mixture of high molecular weight polymers and various fillers. For a plastic to be suitable in chess-piece manufacture it must be easily colored and heat stable, and have good impact strength. The most often used plastics are thennoset plastics such as polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).

Polymers found in plastics are typically colorless, so colorants are added to make the chess pieces look more appealing. Colorants include soluble dyes or comminuted pigments. Titanium dioxide can be used for white colored pieces. For more ornamental sets, other inorganic materials such as iron oxides can be used to produce yellow, red, black, brown, and tan pieces.

Various filler materials are added to the plastics to produce durable, high quality pieces. For manufacturing ease, plasticizers are often added to the plastic. Plasticizers are nonvolatile solvents that increase the flexibility of the polymer. To improve the overall properties of the plastic, reinforcement materials such as fiberglass may be added. Other additives include ultraviolet (UV) protectors, heat stabilizers, antioxidants, and manufacturing aids.

The Manufacturing Process

The basic steps involved in the creation of a chess game include creating the mold for the pieces, producing the pieces, producing the board, and final assembly. The following manufacturing procedure represents a method that mass producers of the game might use. Some shops still make their sets by hand, a time consuming process that involves carving the pieces from the raw material.

Making the pieces

  • 1 In the earliest phase of manufacture, designs for the chess set pieces are drawn out on a board and used as a guide in making the molds. Pieces are then handmade, typically starting by making the general outline of the piece with a wire frame. Clay is then molded around the frame and shaped to look exactly like the desired piece.
  • 2 When the clay model hardens, a plaster mold of it is produced. From this mold, a steel die (or mold) is then machined, which will allow the exact duplication of the clay model. In some cases, a set of steel molds are connected together so that the whole set of chess pieces can be made in a single injection molding step.
  • 3 With the steel molds made, plastic pellets are transformed into chess game pieces using injection molding. In this process, pellets are put into a hopper connected to the injection molding machine. They are forced through a high-pressure screw and melted. The screw is turned, forcing the melted plastic through a nozzle and into the mold. Just before the plastic is injected, the two halves of the mold are brought together to form the shape of the chess piece. Inside the mold, the plastic is held under pressure for a set amount of time and then allowed to cool. As it cools, the plastic hardens, the mold is opened, and the chess game piece is ejected. The mold then closes again and the process begins again.

Making the board

  • 4 The construction of the board depends on the starting raw material. Wood and stone sets are cut or carved to specifications. For mass produced sets, the main raw material for the board is cardboard. The cardboard is first cut in a square to the exact dimensions desired, and then it is printed. The printing process involves a printing press fitted with plates. When the press is turned on, the plate passes under a roller and gets coated with water. An ink roller is passed over the plate and ink attaches to the plate in specific printable spots.
  • 5 Ink is transferred from the plate to a rubber roller. The rubber roller is passed over the cardboard, which causes a transfer of ink. The cardboard is then passed to the next roller assembly where the next color is added by a similar process. The ink is specially formulated so that it dries before it enters the next roller assembly. This process of wetting, inking, and printing allows for continuous manufacture of printed chess boards. After all the printing is done, a special clear polymer coating may be applied to protect it and give it a glossy look.

Final assembly

  • 6 To finish production of a game set, all the different components are brought to the packaging area. The exact package depends on the final design, however, in most cases the pieces are put into a box along with the board. During this stage, instruction sheets or other booklets are also put in the box. It is then taken by conveyor to a shrink-wrapping machine..
  • 7 On the shrink-wrap machine, the box is loosely wrapped in a thin plastic film. It is then passed through a heating device that shrinks the film and wraps the box tightly. The boxes are then put into cases and stacked on pallets. They are transferred to trucks that deliver them to local sales outlets.

Quality Control

The quality of the chess game parts are checked during each phase of manufacture. Line inspectors check the plastic parts to ensure they meet size, shape, and consistency specifications. The primary test method is typically visual inspection. When a damaged plastic part is found, it is set aside to be melted again and reformed into a new chess game piece.

The Future

The future of chess sets is likely to involve the improvement of computerized chess sets. Currently, many manufacturers produce single person, computerized games that allow the player to compete against a computer. In the years to come, these computer chess games are likely to become more sophisticated, challenging even the best players in the world. In addition to the current game, variations have been developed. Future chess sets may involve multiple levels in which pieces will be able to attack not only forward and backward, but also up and down. New board shapes have already been introduced making it possible for up to four players to be involved in a game at once.

Where to Learn More


Carraher, C. E., and R. B. Seymour. Polymer Chemistry. 5th ed., revised. Undergraduate Chemistry Series. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 2000.

Chabot, J. F. The Development of Plastics Processing: Machinery and Methods. Society of Plastics Engineers Monographs. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992.

Goichberg, Bill, et al. U.S. Chess Federation Official Rules of Chess. New York: David McKay Co., 1993.

Golombek, Harry. Chess: A History. New York: Putnam Publishing Group, 1976.

Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992.

Levy, David, and Monty Newborn. How Computers Play Chess. New York: W.H. Freeman & Co., 1990.



views updated May 17 2018


CHESS. Records from the court of Baghdad in the ninth and tenth centuries represent the first well-documented history of the game of chess. The game entered Spain in the eighth century and had spread across western Europe by the year 1000. Benjamin Franklin advanced chess in the United States with his essay "The Morals of Chess" (1786), in which he stressed the importance of "fore-sight," "circumspection," "caution," and "perseverance." Popular interest in chess was also advanced by the publication of such books as Chess Made Easy, published in Philadelphia in 1802, and The Elements of Chess, published in Boston in 1805. By the mid-nineteenth century, the United States had produced its first unofficial national chess champion, Paul Morphy, who took Europe by storm

in 1858, defeating grandmasters in London and Paris, but his challenge of British champion Howard Staunton was rebuffed. America's next world-championship aspirant was Harry Nelson Pillsbury, a brilliant player with prodigious powers of recall who died at age thirty-four.

In 1924, at a meeting in Paris, representatives from fifteen countries organized the Fédération Internationale des Eá checs (or FIDE) to oversee tournaments, championships, and rule changes. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) was founded in 1939 as the governing organization for chess in America.

Since 1948, Russian-born players have held every world championship, with the exception of the brief reign (1972–1975) of American grandmaster Bobby Fischer, a child prodigy who captured the U.S. chess championship in 1958 at the age of fourteen. In 1972 Fischer defeated Soviet great Boris Spassky for the world championship in Reykjavík, Iceland, in the most publicized chess match in history. The irascible Fischer refused to defend his title in 1975, because of disagreements over arrangements for the match, and went into reclusive exile. He reappeared in the former Yugoslavia in 1992 and defeated Spassky, but no one took the match seriously.

Quick chess, which limited a game to twenty-five minutes per player, appeared in the mid-1980s and grew in popularity in the 1990s, after Fischer patented a chess clock for speed games in 1988. Computer chess began earlier, when, in 1948, Claude Shannon of Bell Telephone Laboratories delivered a paper stating that a chess-playing program could have applications for strategic military decisions. Richard Greenblatt, an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote a computer program in 1967 that drew one game and lost four games in a USCF tournament. Researchers from Northwestern University created a program that won the first American computer championship in 1970. Deep Thought, a program developed at Carnegie Mellon University and sponsored by International Business Machines, defeated grandmaster Bent Larsen in 1988. Deep Thought's successor, Deep Blue, played world champion Gary Kasparov in Philadelphia in February 1996. Kasparov won three games and drew two of the remaining games to win the match, 4–2. At a rematch in New York City in May 1997, after the match was tied at one win, one loss, and three draws, the computer program won the final game. Computer programs of the 1960s could "think" only two moves ahead, but Deep Blue could calculate as many as 50 billion positions in three minutes.


Fischer, Bobby. My Sixty Memorable Games. Reissue, London: Batsford, 1995.

Hooper, David, and Kenneth Whyld. The Oxford Companion to Chess. 2d ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Levy, David, and Monty New born. How Computers Play Chess. New York: Computer Science Press, 1991.

Louise B.Ketz

David P.McDaniel

See alsoToys and Games .


views updated Jun 08 2018

chess. The origins of chess have been much discussed but remain obscure, since it developed over time. It seems to have begun in India or China about the 6th cent. ad and to have been adopted in Persia, where it was known as shat-ranj. It spread to the west through the Arabs and the Vikings, and a Viking ivory chess set, discovered in the Hebrides in 1831, has been dated to the 12th cent. One of the earliest books to be issued by Caxton (c.1481) was Game and Playe of the Chesse, a translation from a French translation of a Latin work. The medieval game was slow and was speeded up in the 16th cent. by giving the queen and bishop greater powers. Since then a reasonably standard game has developed, though with local variations. The game is controlled, with some difficulty, by the World Chess Federation, founded in 1924, which formulates rules, awards grandmasterships and masterships, and organizes the world championship.

J. A. Cannon


views updated May 29 2018

chess Board game of strategic attack and defence, played on a 64-square chequered board. Two players start with 16 pieces each, white or black, set out along the outer two ranks (rows) of the board. With a black square in the left corner, white's pieces are set out: rook (castle), knight, bishop, queen, king, bishop, knight, rook. Black's pieces align directly opposite. Pawns stand on the second rank. White takes first move, and players move pieces alternately on either rank (horizontal), file (vertical), or diagonal as appropriate, until the king is captured (checkmate). Chess originated in India. The earliest extant references date the game back to the 6th century ad. Modern chess is a high-profile, international game. Since 1950, all male world champion grandmasters (except Bobby Fisher from the USA) have come from Russia or the former Soviet Union.


views updated May 29 2018

chess / ches/ • n. a board game for two players, played on a checkered board. Each player begins with sixteen pieces that are moved according to precise rules. The object is to put the opponent's king under a direct attack from which escape is impossible (checkmate).


views updated Jun 11 2018

chess a board game of strategic skill for two players, played on a chequered board. Each player begins the game with a king, a queen, two bishops, two knights, two rooks (or ‘castles’), and eight pawns, which are moved and capture opposing pieces according to precise rules. The object is to put the opponent's king under a direct attack from which escape is impossible (checkmate). Recorded from Middle English, the word comes from Old French esches, plural of eschec ‘a check’.


views updated May 14 2018

chess XIII. Aphetic — OF, esches (mod. échecs), pl. of eschec CHECK 1.
Hence chessmen the pieces with which the game is played. XV.


views updated May 17 2018

CHESS (tʃɛs) (USA) Cornell high-energy synchrotron source