Chess (the "Game of Kings") is a
board game for
two players, which requires 32 chesspieces (or
chessmen) and a board demarcated by 64 squares. Gameplay does not involve
random luck; consisting solely of strategy, (see also tactics, and theory).
Chess is one of humanity's more popular games; it is has been described not only
as a game, but also as both art and science. Chess is sometimes seen as an
abstract wargame; as a "mental martial art".
The number of legal positions in chess is estimated to be
and 1050, and the game-tree complexity approximately
10123, while there are 0 (=(stale)mate) to 218
possibilities per move. Chess is played both recreationally and competitively in
clubs, tournaments, on-line, and by mail (correspondence
Many variants and relatives of chess are played throughout
the world; amongst them, the most popular are Xiangqi (China), Buddhi Chal
(Nepal) and Shogi (Japan), all of which come from the same historical stem as
Chess originated from the Indian game Chaturanga, about 1400
years ago. However many countries make claims to have invented it. It reached
Russia via Mongolia, where it was played at the beginning of the 7th century.
From India it migrated to Persia, and spread throughout the Islamic world after
the Muslim conquest of Persia. It was introduced into Spain by the Moors in the
10th century, where a famous games manuscript covering chess, backgammon, and
dice named the Libro de los juegos, was written under the sponsorship of Alfonso
X of Castile during the 13th century. Chess reached England in the 11th century,
and evolved through various versions such as Courier.
By the end of the 15th century, the modern rules for the
basic moves had been adopted (from Italy): pawns gained the option of moving two
squares on their first move and the en passant capture therewith; bishops could
move arbitrarily far along an open diagonal (previously being limited to a move
of exactly two squares diagonally) while losing the ability to jump over the
intervening square, and the queen was allowed to move arbitrarily far in any
direction, making it the most powerful piece. (Before, she could only move one
square diagonally.) There were still variations in rules for
castling and the
outcome in the case of
These changes collectively helped make chess more open to
analysis and thereby develop a more devoted following. The game in Europe since
that time has been almost the same as is played today. The current rules were
finalized in the early 19th century, except for the exact conditions for a draw.
The most popular piece design, the "Staunton" set, was
created by Nathaniel Cook in 1849, endorsed by a leading player of the time
Howard Staunton, and officially adopted by
Staunton styled himself the first
World Champion of Chess in the 1850s; however he avoided matches against the
strongest competitors of his day, most notably American genius Paul Morphy. The
first player to stake a widely recognized claim to being World Champion was
Wilhelm Steinitz in 1866.
The title "Grandmaster"
was created by Russian Tsar Nicholas II who first awarded it in 1914 to five
players after a tournament he had funded in Saint Petersburg.
The World Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded in 1924. When
the reigning World Champion Alexandre Alekhine died in 1946, FIDE took over the
function of organizing World Championship matches. Before that time, sitting
champions had been somewhat capricious in determining against whom and on what
terms they would accept a challenge match. FIDE also assumed the role of
awarding the titles Grandmaster and International Master, as well as eventually
In 1993, in the middle of a cycle of matches to determine the
World Champion, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short broke with FIDE to organize their
own match for the title. They complained of corruption and a lack of
professionalism within FIDE, and formed a competing Professional Chess
Association. Since then there have been two simultaneous World Champions and
World Championships: one extending the Steinitzian lineage in which the current
champion plays a challenger in match format (a series of many games); the other
following FIDE's new format of a tennis-style elimination--or
"Knockout"--tournament with dozens of players competing.
Once considered only a curiosity,
programs have risen in ability to the point where they can seriously challenge
Kasparov, then ranked number one in the world, played a
six-game match against IBM's chess computer
Deep Blue in
1996. Deep Blue shocked the world by winning the first game in Deep Blue -
Kasparov, 1996, Game 1, but Kasparov convincingly won the match by winning 3
games and drawing 2. The six-game rematch in 1997 was won by the machine which
was subsequently retired by IBM. In October, 2002, Vladimir Kramnik drew in an
eight-game match with the computer program Deep Fritz. In 2003, Garry Kasparov
drew both a six-game match with the computer program Deep Junior in February,
and a four-game match against X3D Fritz in November.
In May 2002, several leaders in the chess world met in Prague
and signed a unity agreement which intended to ensure the crowning of an
undisputed world champion before the end of 2003, and restore the traditional
cycle of qualifying matches by 2005. The semifinalists for the 2003 championship
were to be Ruslan Ponomariov vs. Gary Kasparov, and Vladimir Kramnik vs. Peter
Leko. The former match, organised by FIDE, had been scheduled to take place in
Yalta beginning on September 18, 2003, but was called off on August 29 after
Ponomariov refused to sign his contract for it. There is a proposal that
Kasparov will instead play a match in 2004 against the winner of the next FIDE
knock-out world championship. The Kramnik-Leko match was originally to be held
in Budapest, but funding collapsed and it was called off. As of December 2003,
there are no reported plans for the match, and it is not clear whether it will
ever go ahead.
At one time, chess games were recorded using
Descriptive chess notation, a somewhat clumsy notation that takes more
space, more time to say, and more time to explain than its replacement,
algebraic chess notation.
Portable Game Notation (PGN) is the most common standard
computer-processable format for recording chess games, and is based on algebraic