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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

CHESS.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

"This game the Persian magi did invent,

The force of Eastern wisdom to express:

From thence to busy Europeans sent,

And styled by modern Lombards pensive chess."

THE game of chess - the Royal Game, as it is sometimes called - is a purely scientific pastime, calling forth a greater display of mental power and demanding more hard-earned skill than any other game of a similar kind.

Its history and its various changes during the centuries of its existence are matters of much interest to all chess-players; while even more than "seven cities" have claimed the honor of its invention. The source of chess is, however, generally traced back to the old Hindu game, Chaturanga.

Its history then divides into three distinct periods. During the first period, that is, before the sixth century, the Hindu game was played. The board was divided into sixty-four squares, all of the same color, and there were four players instead of two. Each player had eight pieces, - a king, elephant, knight, ship, and four pawns. These men were drawn up in the left-hand corners; the allied forces being diagonally opposite one another. The king was four squares from the end, the elephant next, while the knight and ship occupied the two remaining squares, and a pawn stood in front of each. All these pieces moved in the same way as they do now, with the exception of the pawns and ships. The pawns moved but one square at a time. The ships could only command the third square from them in their diagonals, and, although they had the power of jumping intervening pieces, were of little value. It may be easily seen that there were only eight squares which they could hold. A four-sided die, marked from two to five, was used in playing, and was thrown before each move. If five turned, the king or pawn was played; if four, the elephant; if three, the knight; if two, the ship, or Rukh.

The transition from the first period to the second is very natural and simple. The number of players during this period is two, and the die is discarded. The men are joined into two opposing forces, and two of the kings are reduced to the rank of viziers. The ships and elephants change places, and, what is most strange, they also interchange their names. The new-made viziers have but half the power of their kings, and move diagonally, but only one square.

This was the game of chess from the sixth to the sixteenth century.

In the sixteenth century still more changes were made, - the ships or bishops now command the whole of their diagonals, and the viziers are raised from the lowest position to the highest, and castling is introduced. This brought chess into its present form.

The present names of the men are all derived from the original Eastern names. The name Chess is derived directly from Shah, while Queen is traced back to Vizier, through Vierge, Fierge, Fercia, Vizier. This game exists at the present day in nearly the same form in all parts of the world, and affords the same pleasure now as it did when it was first played on the banks of the sacred Ganges.

H.

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