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- Chess History and Reminiscences - 6/38 -

closely identified as the greatest rulers, deepest thinkers, and most accomplished and profound scholars, and distinguished men of science of the past; affording also a substantial boon, which may be conferred by philanthropists on their less fortunate brethren in society, as it is calculated to induce temperate as well as peaceful and thoughtful habits. A bond of social union also to all who appreciate and care to avail themselves of the relief and advantages which chess is so well known to afford, over other less innocent, less intellectual and more expensive and objectionable movements.


The following notice of chess shortly after the death of Dr. Zukertort, add materially to an increasing appreciation of chess among the working classes, and help the good work on.

"THE WEEKLY DISPATCH," June 24th, 1888.

By the sudden death of Dr. Zukertort, last Wednesday morning, the royal game of chess loses one of its most interesting and brilliant exponents. This distinguished master was only forty-six, and he has been cut off right in the middle of an interesting tournament at the British Chess Club, in which he stood the best chance of winning the first prize. Amongst his last conversations was his arranging to play Blackburne on Saturday, the 23rd, and Bird on Monday, the 25th. The extreme painfulness of Zukertort's death to his friends cannot be estimated by the general public. Famous cricketers and famous actors are applauded by those they entertain or amuse. The chess master receives no applause; over the board, however, he enters into conversation with amateurs, and is rewarded by friendships that far outweigh the wildest ephemeral outbursts of approval. The friendships so formed by Zukertort have now been snapped, and his removal has caused, in the words of the old player Bird, "a severe blank." Bird himself is an interesting character. He is by far the oldest chess master, does the chess correspondence for the Times, and is as well known by his chess books as by his play. The game between him and Zukertort in the tournament now in progress was looked forward to with intense interest, for he and Zukertort were the leading scorers, and the fight for the first prize would have centred in this contest. A good feature in Bird's character is his disposition to make acquaintances with working men. He has taught many of them his "charming game," and has frequently been told afterwards that it has been the means of saving them a few shillings every week. This is easily understood, for a man that plays chess is not likely to play "penny nap" nor to drink much four-ale. Such at any rate, is Mr. Bird's theory; and he is just now endeavouring to promote a scheme for the popularising of chess amongst the industrial classes.



The honour of the invention of chess has been claimed, we are told, by seven countries, China, India, Egypt, Greece, Assyria, Persia and Arabia.

Capt. Kennedy, in one of his chess sketches observes, and Mr. Staunton, in his Chess Player's Chronicle repeats the statement, thus: "That this is as many countries as aforetime there were cities in Greece, each of which, it is said, having peacefully allowed Homer to starve during his life-time, started up after he died in a fierce contention for the glory of having given him birth.

My old friends, Capt. Kennedy and Mr. Staunton, no doubt, used the words "starved" figuratively, for neglected by his country, for myself, I really do not know whether Homer really was neglected by his country or not.



The traditions of chess are numerous and conflicting, Zakaria Yahya a writer of the tenth century in "The Delight of the Intelligent in Description of Chess" referring to stories extant and fables respecting its invention to that time remarks, "It is said to have been played by Aristotle, by Yafet Ibn Nuh (Japhet son of Noah) by Sam ben Nuh (Shem) by Solomon for the loss of his son, and even by Adam when he grieved for Abel.

Aben Ezra, the famous Rabbi, interpreter, and expounder of scripture, and who is said to have excelled in every branch of knowledge, attributed the invention of chess to Moses. His celebrated poem on chess, written about 1130 A.D., has been translated into nearly all languages of the civilized globe, into English by Dr. Thomas Hyde, Oxford, 1694.

The unknown Persian, author of the imperfect M.S. presented by Major Price the eminent Orientalist, to the Asiatic Society, and upon which N. Bland, Esq., mainly bases his admirable treatise on Persian Chess, 1850, says--"Hermes, a Grecian sage, invented chess, and that it was abridged and sent to Persia in the sixth century of our era."

The famous Shahnama, by Firdausi, called the Homer of Persia, and other Eastern manuscripts as well as the M.S. of the Asiatic Society, give less ancient traditions of the adaption of chess relating to the time of Alexander the Great and Indian Kings, Fur, Poris, and Kaid; in one of these the reward of a grain of corn doubled sixty-four times was stipulated for by the philosopher, and the seeming insignificance of the demand astonished and displeased the King, who wished to make a substantial recognition worthy of his own greatness and power, and it occasioned sneers and ridicule on the part of the King's treasurer and accountant at Sassa's supposed lack of wisdom and judgment. However, astonishment and chagrin succeeded before they were half way through their computation, for when the total was arrived at, it was found to exceed all the wealth of the world, and the King knew not which to admire most, the ingenuity of the game itself, or that of the minister's demand.

The earliest European work on chess is supposed to be that of Jacobus de Cessolus, a monk of Picardy, which appeared (it is said) in 1290 (scheilt swischen 1250-1275 Linde 1-10). His favourite names are Evil Merodach, King of Babylon and a philosopher named Xerxes, Massman, 1830, gives Ammelin, Amilin, Amilon and Selenus, Ibl, Xerxes whose Greek name was Philometer to whom 597 B.C. has been assigned.

Palamedes and Diomedes of Trojan celebrity, the Lydians of Herodotus, the Thoth of Plato, the Hermes of the Asiatic Society's philosopher; in fact nearly every one of the Gods who has in turn served as the Great Mythological Divinity has been credited with the discovery of chess.

NOTE. There are few parts of learning so involved in obscurity, as the history of Pagan idolatry. It may, perhaps, be some satisfaction to us to think that the ancients themselves knew even less of the matter than we do; but if so, it furnishes a strong argument for the necessity of being very cautious in drawing our conclusions. We believe it may safely be said, that there is not one among all the fabled deities of antiquity, whom (if the writers of antiquity may be trusted) it is not possible to identify with every other--Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Pan, Hercules, Priapus, Bacchus, Bel, Moloch, Chemosh, Taut, Thoth, Osiris, Buddha, Vishnou, Siva, all and each of these may be shown to be one and the same person. And whether we suppose this person to have been the Sun, or to have been Adam, or Seth, or Enoch, or Noah, or Shem, or Ham, or Japhet, the conclusion will be still the same, each of them, it may be shewn was worshipped as the Sun, and all of them, wherever their worship was established, were severally considered as the Great Mythological Divinity.

So far, It would not appear that there is any room for much difference of opinion, at least, not if ancient authorities may be depended on.


Dr. Salvic states on the strength of one of his authorities, and Alexandre apparently quite seriously has repeated the statement that the text in Samuel of Abner and Joab's twelve chosen champions "Let the young men now arise and play before us" may be applicable to chess, but the context of the chapter is opposed to any such conclusion. All the foregoing fabulous accounts may be at least declared "not proven" if not utterly unworthy even of the verdict pronounced in those two words. There are three more modern traditions or accounts, the first of which is referred to Alexander the Great's time 336 to 322 B.C., and the two others to about the time of Chosroes--900 years later. Forbes devotes thirteen pages to them and they are given with less detail by the Rev. R. Lambe in 1764 and N. Bland in 1850.



In this, the first Indian tradition referred to the time of Alexander the Great, it is related in the Shahnama that a very powerful King of India named Kaid, satiated with war, and having no enemies without, or rebellious subjects within his kingdom, thus addressed his minister Sassa.

"Day and night my mind is harassed with the thoughts of war and strife; when in the hours of the night sleep overpowers me, I dream of nothing but battlefields and conquests, and in the morning, when I awake, I still think over my imaginary combats and victories. Now you are well aware that I have no longer one single enemy or rebel in my whole dominions with whom to contend. It is utterly repugnant to justice and common sense, to go to war without any cause. If I were to do so God would be displeased with me, and a severe retribution for my evil deeds would soon overtake me, even in this world, for is it not said that a kingdom governed by falsehood and oppression is void of stability, and it will soon pass away. Tell me, then, O Sassa, for great is thy wisdom, what am I to do in order to regain my peace of mind, and obtain relief from my present state of weariness and disgust?"

Sassa hereupon bethought himself of a rare game, the invention of an ancient Grecian sage, by name Hermes, which had recently been introduced into India by Alexander and his soldiers, who used to play it at times of leisure. Sassa procured and modified

Chess History and Reminiscences - 6/38

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