September 13, 2009 22:13

Valencia and the origin of modern chess

The chess playersIn just over a week, Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov will play an exhibition match in Valencia, Spain, as part of the festivities of the Valencia Cuna del Ajedrez Moderno program: “Valencia, birthplace of modern chess”. ChessVibes will be in Valencia to report on the match between the two K's. As an introduction to the festivities in Valencia, I will try to shed some light on the complicated but very interesting Valencian link with modern chess.

Miniature from a book work by Jacques de Cessoles - Liber de moribus - XIVth century - The chess players

For non-historians, it's not easy finding out about the history of modern chess - not on the internet, at least. The problem is that there are many recent developments when it comes to the origins of chess as we know it - so recent that it's not easy to find actual books on them: books in the English language, that is. There are many excellent online resources, with very long and detailed articles written by most respectable historians, but they hardly ever refer to each other, and most if not all offer just pieces of the puzzle. While trying to figure out the origins of modern chess, I often felt like a detective on a murder case. This article is my final showdown, the confrontation of the suspects.

This much we know for sure: chess as we now play it emerged somewhere between the end of the Middle Ages and the birth of the Renaissance, i.e. between 1450 and 1500. This was perhaps one of the most importantly periods in all of human history, in view of the capture of Constantinople (1453), the invention of the book press by Johannes Gutenberg (1455) and the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1492). The rough dating for the new chess rules in this period, however, doesn't satisfy historians. When, where and why did chess make such radical changes in this timespan? These are questions that are still heavily debated even today. As to the 'where' question, virtually all contemporary sources point towards Spain. But the precise answering of 'when and why' is much more complicated, as we will see.

vinyoles fennolar

The love poem and allegory Scachs d'Amor by Francesch de Castellvi, Narcis Vinyoles and Bernat Fenollar was analysed extensively by chess history pioneer Ricardo Calvo

The game of chess itself, of course, is much, much older than the Renaissance. In the Middle Ages, it was a highly popular board game, and there are many medieval manuscripts documenting rules, positions and problems. Some of the most beautiful images of chess playing people are from this age. The rules of the game were different from the ones we're using now in many ways. Most importantly, the movement of the queen and bishop was very different under these old rules. The queen (or 'fers' in Arab) was the weakest piece on the board: it could only move 1 square diagonally. The bishop, or 'fil', was also a very limited piece, having only access to 8 squares regardless of where it stood. Pawn promotions did exist, but pawns could only promote to fers. These rules made chess a rather slow game, with little room for opening theory. But all this was about to change.

Modern research on the origin of modern chess started in 1905, when a late-fifteenth century Catalan manuscript (that is, a hand written book) titled Scachs d'Amor (Chess of Love) was discovered in the Royal Chapel of the Palau de Barcelona. Scachs d'Amor is a love poem and an allegory describing a game of chess between two players representing the gods Mars and Venus, while a referee (Mercury) is watching over them. Two of the poem's authors, Francesch de Castellvi (with white representing Mars) and Narcis Vinyoles (with black representing Venus) play a chess game according to 'modern' rules. (The third author, Bernat Fenollar, performs the role of arbiter.) The game, as indicated in the manuscript itself, was not played in real life, but was invented for literary purposes - quite in style of Renaissance writing. The game can be reconstructed as follows:

Game viewer by ChessTempo

As anyone immediately must notice, in this game the bishop and especially the queen, called dama in the manuscript, move in a dramatically different way from the old medieval rules: they wander the board according to our modern rules, and have suddenly become very strong and important pieces. These new rules are also formulated in the manuscript - albeit in a poetical, 'hidden' sort of way. Clearly, something had changed by the time Scachs d'Amor was written. But when did this change take place, and what triggered it? Enter the chess historians, who have done extensive research on this and other questions.

First, we must properly indentify the authors of the Scachs manuscript: Francesch de Castellvi, an advisor to the court of King Ferdinand; Narcis Vinyoles, an influential judge and politician; and Mossen Bernat Fenollar, a clergyman from the province of Alicante. All were well-known members of an avant-garde literary circle in Valencia in the late decades of the 15th century. In 1474, the three of them published a piece (which appeared in print) together for a contest in honour of the Virgin Mary. This, together with the Valencian dialect in which the poem is written, easily locates the Scachs-manuscript in Valencia itself, and there is no controversy over this issue among scholars. But can we establish when Scachs d'Amor was actually written? This question is more difficult to answer, but there are many clues. The most basic one is that Castellvi died in 1506, so this is the last theoretical date for the manuscript to have appeared. But it was probably written years before that.

vinyoles fennolar

Narcis Vinyoles and Mossen Bernat Fenollar

There's more than one argument for this hypothesis: one of those is the emergence of printed books (instead of manuscripts) in Valencia around 1474, making the appearance of a costly manuscript for a much later date unlikely; another is that the manuscript itself doesn't yet mention Vinyoles' honorary title 'mossen', which he obtained in 1488. So the manuscript was probably written before 1488, implying the new rules for queen and bishop were already in use before 1490. And what's the earliest date that can be attached to it? Well, we know that the latest 15th century chess manuscripts (from the so-called Civis Bononiae family) are dated around 1460, and that none of these mention the new queen and bishop rules, thus indicating that the new rules were probably not yet known around this time. Therefore, the Scachi manuscript must be dated somewhere between 1460 and 1490.

The date 1490 is important, by the way, because this implies that the new rules are older than the oldest printed book that's still around: Lucena's famous Repeticion de amores e arte de axedrez con CL juegos de partido, printed in Salamanca in 1497 and dedicated to King Ferdinand. Lucena is one of the most mysterious chess authors in the history of the game. He was Jewish by birth and as a consequence threatened by the Spanish Inquisition, which he escaped by converting to Christianity. His highly curious book, probably the most famous chess book of all time, is very interesting not only because it is so old but also because it is an unusual mixture of a love story and a treatise on chess. For this reason, it has been studied extensively by scholars. For clarity's sake, I will focus on the chess-part only.


Lucena's Repeticion de amores e arte de axedrez con CL juegos de partido

In the chess-related part of the book, then, Lucena explicitly states the distinction between the old and new rules of chess, which he calls 'el viejo' and 'de la dama' respectively. The 150 (CL in Roman numerals) chess problems in the book are also classified according to this distinction. Problems with the new chess rules include the new queen and bishop moves and a relatively advanced version of castling. It has long been assumed that Lucena's book was the first official account of the new rules of chess, which also include capturing en passant. But where did Lucena get these rules from? Could Lucena have learned them from the Scachs d'Amor manuscript, its authors, or by another trace to Valencia?

To be sure, the Lucena family can easily be linked to Castellvi, Fenollar and Vinyoles through their mutual connections with King Ferdinand of Aragon. Also, it's not unlikely that Lucena went to the port of Valencia to embark on his journeys through Europe, possibly having contact with the Scachi d'Amor circle of poets. According to many sources, Lucena probably met both Vinyoles and Fenollar. So yes, Lucena, too, can be linked directly to Valencia and he may very well have gotten the new rules by this route.

Do we have any other sources around this time documenting the new rules? Indeed we have - well, sort of: in 1495, two years before Lucena’s book was printed, the first chess book ever appeared in print: it was Fracesch Vicent's incunabulum (or pre-1500 printed edition) treatise on chess, called Libre dels jochs partitis Scachs. This mysterious book has been subject of much speculation because it was ... lost in the 19th century and has never been seen since. Through various sources, we partly know what was in the book and we can also infer that Lucena probably 'borrowed' extensively from the Vicent manuscript directly. To show the definitive Valencian influence, what needs to be shown is a link between the Vicent book and the Scachi group and/or Valencia, and this is precisely what the Valencian researcher Jose Antonio Garzon Roger has done in recent years. Let's have a look at the evidence he presents.

El Regreso de Francesch Vincent

El Regreso de Francesch Vincent by Garzon Roger

In his 2005 book El regreso de Francesch Vicent (The return of Francesch Vicent), Garzon Roger shows - based on technical analysis - that Libre dels jochs partitis Scachs was indeed printed in Valencia. (What's more, Garzon Roger suggests it must still exist somewhere. Unfortunately, as long as the book hasn't actually been located, it all remains somewhat speculative.) According to Garzon Roger, the book can also be linked – through their connection with book printers at the time - to the Valencian literary group, mentioning the new 'queen rules' (which were described in a still concealed form in the Scachs manuscript) for the first time in a formal way in print.

Thus the circle of the Valencian origins of chess seems closed. As Garzon Roger says in a recent interview: "Everything happens in Valencia". And so, there is now little doubt that the first sources (the Scachs manuscript, the Vincent book and the Lucena book) of the new chess rules are all linked to Valencia, and this makes the city by far the best candidate for the origin of modern chess.

But still Garzon Roger was not satisfied: he wanted an even more exact dating, and even better explanations. When exactly was Scachs d'Amor written, and what inspired the Valencian poets to invent the new rules? At this point in our whodunit, another detective, draughts-history expert Govert Westerveld, who has worked closely with Garzon Roger, appears on the scene. According to Westerveld, the new rules (and especially the rules for the queen movement) coincide precisely with the coronation of dama Isabella the Catholic (who had married King Ferdinand in 1469). This coronation took place at 13 December 1474, and it literally turned the dama into a Queen.

This event, Westerveld claims, inspired the Valencian poets to change the rules in accordance with Isabella's newly gained powers - powers that were, as they are in the new chess, even greater than those of her husband, the king. In fact, according to both Garzon Roger and Westerveld, there are obvious hints within the Scachs d'Amor poem to Isabella's actual coronation. The most important one is the following line (stanza 54), spoken by Fenollar:

"Mas nostre joch de nou vol enremar se stil novel e strany a qui bel mira prenent lo pom, lo sceptr'e la cadira, car, sobretot, la Reyna fa honrar se."

(But our game still wants to adorn itself with a new and surprising style for mainly the queen's dignity is enhanced, as she is given the sword, the sceptre and the throne.)

As Garzon Roger points out, historical records duly note that Queen Isabella I was crowned with the sword of justice raised in front of her, and the sceptre and throne were given to her. This allusion to the real-world event is so clear that for Westerveld and Garzon Roger, the inspiration of Queen Isabella for the new chess queen is unquestionable. Moreover, Westerveld has evidence that the invention of the game of draughts can also be traced to Valencia, and he told me in a private e-mail that he and checkers champion Harm Wiersma will present this evidence, from an hitherto unknown draughts book showing that the game was invented in 1495 in Valencia, during the festivities next week. And yes, you’ve read it on ChessVibes first!

To return to chess, Garzon Roger also discovered that in June 1475, Mars, Venus and Mecury were in close conjunction at the Valencian sky. What better evidence for the appearance of the poem than this mystical moment? And what better evidence for the exact date of the invention of the new rules? It's clear where Westerveld and Garzon Roger are heading to: it were the authors of Scachs d'Amor themselves who invented the new rules of chess, in honour of their new queen Isabella I, and they did it in the city of Valencia, in 1475 or 1476 at latest.

roger karpov westerveld

Garzon Roger and Govert Westerveld with Anatoli Karpov

So, that's where, when and why modern chess begun. Quod erat demonstrandum, and Westerveld and Garzon Roger actually present their solution to the puzzle with some triumph, as if they want to show the world how wrong other historians - such as Murray - have been in the past by ignoring Valencia so far. It's hard not to think of this as a bit of 'Valencian chauvinism', which in my opinion goes badly together with the scientific rigor they show in their research.

So, have we solved the mystery? Apart from the missing Vicent book, it seems there is little room for doubt or skepticism in this chain of reasoning. Certainly the upcoming festivities in Valencia speak for themselves. Still, as far as I can tell a few things remain unclear. Perhaps this is simply due to my ignorance in the matter, or because much of Garzon Roger’s work is published in Spanish only – whatever it is, I hope the following questions will be answered in Valencia next week.

First of all, it seems perfectly plausible to me that the Valencian poets didn't invent the new rules themselves, but borrowed them in turn from others, who may or may not have been inspired by Queen Isabella: perhaps it was the poets who first connected the two in a poetical way (after all, they were poets.) We may never know.
Also, based on what I've read so far (which is not all), I do not see why the Scachs manuscript cannot have been written a few years after 1475 - say, in 1480. Sure, the later it appeared, the simpler it would have been to print it in book-form instead of writing it in manuscript, but who knows what happened in those days?

roger karpov westerveld

Isabella I (a detail of the painting Our Lady of the Fly, attributed to Gerard David and/or someone of the circle of Jan Mabuse)

A more relevant point than all this seems to me connected to the rules of castling. Garzon Roger has claimed that the Scachs manuscript mentions castling in the almost-modern sense, namely based on the fact that the king needs a safe haven with a very strong enemy queen around. According to Garzon Roger, the writers of the Scachs d'Amor manuscript 'with great intuition forsaw how to mitigate her power by seeking the King's safety'. All very well, but in the game they present, neither side castles! I find this distinctly suspicious - if you invent a new rule, and even realize its future importance, why not demonstrate it in a game you can invent yourself?

Finally, as always, the term 'modern chess' seems to me a matter of definition. Garzon Roger and Westerveld, as well as others, seem to advocate the view that modern 'de la dama' chess was born in Valencia, when the new queen rules where likely being invented. And since Lucena and others after him also used this as a way of distinction between the old and new forms, there seems little reason not to call it the birth of modern chess.

Or is there? What about other, later, changes in the rules, most importantly castling? The great Ruy Lopez castled differently as late as 1561, so isn't 'modern chess' really that: chess as we now play it? By these standards, the first 'modern' castling was not established officially until 1620, and even then the rules still varied locally. However fascinating the Valencian connection, however true its origin, for me, personally, 'modern chess' really is chess as it is played by, well, by Karpov and Kasparov.

Perhaps we will never be able to pinpoint the exact emergence of modern chess, whatever that means - simply because it happened too long ago. But one thing is certain: next week, Kasparov and Karpov will be in Valencia to celebrate the origin of modern chess, and who can blame them? Valencia deserves it.


Online sources

Official website

Share |
Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Peter Doggers's picture

Yes, setting a precedent for many centuries to come... I think the soldier behind the king is whispering in the other soldier's ear: "They got it all wrong!"

eso es's picture

Arne Moll

You have done extremely well in making sense of this very intricate and complicated subject in limited time, and producing a solid and readable overview.

What is inttriguing about this K-K match - in Valencia, where they never fought a match! - is the interest shown by the Valencia government. I mean, as chess players we are ready to assume that chess is the most important thing in the world, but of course it is not. In Spain, there are always some energetic persons and groups willing to manoeuver some unwilling politicos into sponsoring chess events - there is a technique there worth studying! The Andalusian government - Sevilla match! - on the other hand, did not seem willing to finance the event.

What transpires is that there is huge interest for chess in the Valencia area, letting a regional government consider it worthwhile to spend a lot of money in bringing two aging chess players to the scene for a remake of match that took place somewhere else.... The question is if all this interest will bear INTEREST...

Arne Moll's picture

Thanks for your additions, eso es. You're right in mentioning Ricardo Calvo - I've read a lot of articles by him on the Godess Chess site and intended to include his name in the article, but somehow it slipped my mind, but as you can see, I included his analysis of Scachs d'Amor as one of the illustrations.

indeed to my chagrin I haven't read any of the Spanish-written books on the Valencian history since it seems they are so hard to obtain. I hope to buy some of them in Valencia. I also heard the Vicent book is going to be translated into Engish, that would be a big breaktrough for the English-speaking part of the chess world interested in chess history. In fact ChessVibes will try to attend as much as possible lectures on the subject in Valencia and report on them.

@Castro, it's true the logic of the game changed radically with the new queen and bishop. However, I don't like the term evolution in this context because it suggests too much a random and continuous process, while we know the changes were not random at all and also not continuous, since they stopped in the 17th century.

Arne Moll's picture

Bert, in Scachs d'Amor the poets speak of 'a new style, the rules of our school' (still novell, la ley de nostre escola) and they also indicate how they are inventing the rules 'on the spot': 'I say that the queen shall have the moves of all the pieces save the knight' etc.
Of course, we shouldn't confuse literary and real worlds, and what's said in poems is still only literary, but I can understand why the link with the authors and the new rules is so tempting for scholars.
According to some sources, Castellvi was really a good chess player but the other two were just amateurs. It could have happened.

Castro's picture

@Wytse, Peter

I think it was no "mistake". In those times it was far from defined (at least universaly) one orientation for the board. One would play chess either way. And not always the board would even be two-coloured! And also black (or red or yello) could move first, etc.


(I mentioned XIII century, but of course I meant XV)
The changes didn't stop in the 17th century. For instance, White moving first wasn't a fixed rule until late 19th. But sure, the most important things were defined until the 17th.
Until then, we still should talk about evolution, because until fixed and universal in the whole "civilized world", those major changes didn't come sudenly in space (note that for long periods, old and new variations existed together) or time (for instance, italian people would practice "free castling" long after our "modern" castling were rule in France and Spain).
It's not about "random" or "continuous". Not all evolution concept has to have exactely the darwinist features! :-)

@Bert de Bruut

Bishops happened to be bishops but not on those times nor places. The only latin country where they are called bishops (bispos) is Portugal. (It would be interesting to discover why, since Portugal was also one of these countries central to these chess changes and to those times civilisation, but it's influences at those times were also as arab and latin as could be). The other "bishop countries" are mainly anglosaxonic, and maybe because bishops could also act as sort of squires in the court and in the war.
You're right, they could also have introduced that name change in Valencia, but they didn't. Playing old or new variant, they would always call them "alfiles" (from arab and persian, meaning elephant).
In other near countries, the elefants kind of took the place of the old fers (italian "alfieri", meaning "squire", from the arab al-fers!) after it was transformed into a powerful queen, which BTW was not necesarely a "queen", but a lady ("dama", "dame", "dona", in that times central latin countries, where it remain that way).
The vanishing of the old piece "fers", replaced by the "dama", and the similarity of the names al-fil and al-fers explains that the "bishops" became just what the "fers" was: "squires" to the throne. In french, a "fou". Not a squire in the exact terms, but kind of an "amusing squire" of the court. Even in Spain, the word "alfil" is used without thinking of an elephant, but more as escorts to the throne.

eso es's picture

The problem is that this whole story is shrouded in layers and layers of erudition, research and reading - just like the question of the origin of chess itself ! Let me just add a few details:

- the first to pinpoint Valencia as the birthplace of "Modern Chess" - as opposed to the old arab version - was Ricardo Calvo , in collaboration with his wife Carmen - based on his reading and surreptitious reasearch of the poem "Scachs d'amor", the Fenollar-Castellvi group and Lucena's story (see his book on Lucena),

- Garzon's approach is based and takes up on previous research by Calvo and other less known academics,
- next - as You do seemingly not read spanish and have not read the whole of Garzon's book (El regreso...) and later works by him - Garzon claims to have discovered a copy of the original Francesc Vicent manuscript in a library in Cesena / Italy, which corroborates his speculative approach,

- acc. to Calvo, both Vicent and Lucena were heavily exploited by Damiano, author of the first chess bestseller of modern times...,

- some of this can be discovered on websites run by the government of Valencia,

- it is obviously of great interest to the government of Valencia to validate and cement Valencia's claim to be the birthplace of chess as we know it . The poem, Garnzon's publications, Westerveld's books were all published with sizeable aid for the costs by the Generalitat. The involvement of the Valencia government has been continuous, with funds, subsidies, circumstancial aid and pompous ceremonies involved .
- the Generalitat is already capitalizing this investment over many years by sponsoring the Kasparov-Karpov media event - in terms of publicity value much cheaper and possibly more effective than the whole America Cup caboodle....

Bert de Bruut's picture

Thank you, Arne, for a very nice read. Even though the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella gave proof of every evil that can occur when religious fundamentalist gain power, yet, you and me (and Richard Dawkins) might have to reconsider our shared position that little good has ever spawned from religiosity...

A minor critical remark on the elegant and tempting hypothesis of Garzon Roger & Westerveld might be that poets (or politicians) usually don't invent new rules for games - only players themselves are in the position to understand the needed improvements. It would therefore seem more likely that the poets have 'merely' taken account of changes that occured in, so to speak, the local gaming community of Valencia - unless the two groups coincided and the authors were indeed players themselves. This of course is a minor issue that most likely can never be resolved.

One unmentioned peculiarity is, that, under the new rules, not only the power of the Queen was greatly increased, but also that of the Church. Formerely impotent Elephants gained, as Bishops, equal strength to the King's Cavalry!This is an obvious change to consider, especially in that era, once the change of 'Fer' to Queen is considered: just as the Queen sits next in power to the King, the Church sits next in power to the Crown.
And this change is indeed made in several languages, but not in Spanish of course. To this day in Spanish the bishop is known by its original arabic name 'Alfil'. It would therefore seem that the poets missed an excellent opportunity to even more please their Catholic Monarchs (who were perhaps very devout, but as monarchs must also have been naturally inclined to the opinion that the power of the Crown supersedes that of the Church). Perhaps fear of the mighty Inquisition made the poets still think the better of it? I wonder whether this point is adressed in any of the studies and I am looking forward to read (or hear) more about it.

Castro's picture

Congratulations! A most nice and needed article!

The transition to "modern chess" was nothing but instantaneous! It was more of a slow evolution (though this "slow" idea must mean "very fast" by some parametres!).
If all the elements are being well interpretated, end of XIII century Valencia must indeed have been a huge stone in that evolution, at least because that "dama" (and bishop) changes can be linked there, and they are the most radical elements of the transition. Let us call it element 1.
But indeed there are 2. Castling, which is influenced by the new queen, but which definitive (non-free) modern form was far from be secured there. 3. Promotion to pieces other than the queen (or fers). And 4. The en passant capture.

(There are other much less important elements, like two-coloured squares, white square on the right, "white" playing first --- or whoever has his king on the right plays first, ending the anoucing atack on the queen, and more, which were establish along the centuries and places, some through the XIX century, not counting countries like Japan and China, which have other more popular forms of chess even today)

In respect to those 4 main elements, "modern chess" cannot be totaly established in Valencia, but a major step seems to have been taken. A decisive one, because the "logic" of the game was transformed, and stimulated the remaining changes.

Just a final note: Of course the advent of printing doesn't help in dating Scacs d'Amor! Even today we have various kinds of reasons to maybe write things by hand. And through the times, one of the reasons could always be exactely the importance or the reverence of the well done beautyful hand work.

Wytse's picture

Did anyone else also notice the famous mistake with the chessboard in the article's 'Miniature from a book work by Jacques de Cessoles – Liber de moribus – XIVth century – The chess players' picture?

Arne Moll's picture

Castro, you're right. I recently browsed through a 19th century volume with the games of the Morphy-Anderssen match, and to my amazement half of the games started with 1.e7-e5! The players of those days apparently didn't have problems 'transposing' the position with reversed colours - something I always have trouble with myself.

Thomas's picture

@Arne: I guess back then it didn't matter too much, because opening theory was far less developed - if not non-existing.
But I understand your "troubles": Once in a club game, my opponent confused me (I think on purpose) playing d2-d3 and later d3-d4 against my Sicilian. I felt like 'punishing' him thinking I must have a clear advantage!? But objectively speaking, I was merely playing 1.c4 e5 with colors reversed ... .

Castro's picture


Right, from your words

"playing d2-d3 and later d3-d4 against my Sicilian"

I wrongly assumed you were talking about first moves and so confusing columns, from the black point of view (and of course using "Sicilian" somewhat "freely", because, after 1.e3, one does not stricly have none of that by playing c5).
Anyway, your description is (understandably) vague, and no one could see your point of "feeling like punishing him", just because he played d3 and later d4. That happens in thousands of well played games. But OK, sorry for misunderstanding, and I do understand (and believe, of course) it now. Several times, playing on the net, one should --- or choose to --- do those kinds of moves (such as 1.e3 and 2.e4), because the piece sliped on the first attempt. But that is another story :-)

Castro's picture

:-) Another sign of our "troubles":
You surely meant your opponent played e2-e3 and later e3-e4!
And "felling like punishing him" would always be too optimistic. Even if, after 1.e3 c5 he could skip playing and you played another move (two in a row), it would be far from obvious your "advantage". Say, you play 2. ... d5. You would even still be in very well accepted theory, with coulours reversed (1.c4 e6 2.d4).

Arne Moll's picture

Castro (and Peter and Wytse), I someone remembered that I read somewhere that the old rule was indeed to have a white square in the right corner. So I looked it up and indeed, in Lucena's book we can read the following rule: "Hay que tener casa blanca a mano derecha" which speaks for itself.

Moreover, this rule was already mentioned 200 years before Lucena in the Alfonso X's Libro de los Juegos which was commissioned between 1251 and 1282. So, at least in Spain this rule was already common by that time. Ah, and modern commercials and movies still manage to get it wrong consistently! :-)

Thomas's picture

Castro, no I do remember the game I am referring to :-) - well, not exactly and I cannot find the score sheet. But it went something like 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d3 g6 4.d4. The tricky thing is that black's standard way of playing in an open Sicilian is quite different from white's play in games with 1.c4 e5 (and black later plays -d5). I wouldn't really now why this is the case, but I think it's a "given".

But regarding your idea, I remember an old computer game starting with 1.e3 e5 2.e4. The idea was to get black out of his opening book so he had to "think" as early as move 1, whereas the white team had everything programmed beforehand.

Castro's picture


Surely that, and many other rules

{like anouncing "gardez" or "I'm atacking the queen" --- but not "check" (word that derives from the persian one for king)! --- when atacking the queen}

were adopted by certain persons or countries, in certain periods of time. And sometimes some rules were revoked and maybe apeared again, here and there... To all these more or less exactely unknow processes, until the final important steps (circa 17th century) one can call evolution.

But regarding the white square on the right, be sure it (like White playing first) was not obliged, not even the board having two colours! I've seen several proofs of that, and you will also come across that too.
At this moment I just recall one not-so-important book, from 1926 that reads like this:

"Games are played in a square board composed by 64 squares alternaly white and black, though this differenciation is not essencial. But, being present, the white square should be at players right side."

I know this is not one of the best examples, but one thing I'm sure: Not every ocurrence of a board with black square on the right must be seen as "a mistake". Not medieval pictures, that's for sure!
Only those pictures modern enough to belong to the universal acceptance of the rule (maybe only after FIDE?).

Thomas's picture

@Castro: I simply didn't consider it worthwhile mentioning that a Sicilian starts with 1.e4 c5 :-) . And yes, d2-d3 and a later d3-d4 is common, for example, in Ruy Lopez anti-Marshall lines. But here white's plan is to finish his development first, taking the sting out of any Marshall ideas, and only then to (further) advance his d-pawn [and maybe in the meantime black committed himself with d7-d6]. In any case, a loss of tempo is not that crucial in slow maneouvring games.

In the game I mentioned, I don't see what my opponent gained from playing d4 in two moves. The lost tempo might be(come) fatal if he subsequently entered sharp lines with opposite castling? But otherwise, all he did is voluntarily surrender the advantage of the first move - as I said myself, my idea of punishing him was nothing but a psychological or optical illusion.

Govert Westerveld's picture

All my historical books you can find in
Ricardo Calvo wrote a lot of Valencia. However researchers as Kruijswijk, Bakker, Eales, Averbach, etc. did also a good job before that time. The problem is that normally speaking chess historian do not mention too much the work of the other historians, which is a pity.
Govert Westerveld

B. Pfau's picture

Finally there is an English translation of "Scachs d'Amor". See . Thank you.

Latest articles