Who Invented Chess? Tracing the Origins of Chess and Its Inventors

Chess is one of the oldest and most popular board games played worldwide. With its complex strategy and rich history, it has captured the imagination of players for centuries.

But who exactly invented this game of Kings? It’s a common theory that chess was developed by an Indian ruler, Shihiram, during the Gupta Empire.

In this article, I’ll share the origins of chess, tracing its evolution from ancient India to the modern game we know today and the people who invented it. We will also discuss how chess overcame criticisms and became a global phenomenon.

Who Invented Chess?

The origins of chess are shrouded in mystery, and it is challenging to pinpoint exactly who invented the game. However, several myths and legends offer some insights into its origins.

One popular legend attributes the invention of chess to a wise Indian Ruler named Shihiram. The ruler was said to have invented the game to teach his son the art of war.

Another legend states that Sissa, a mathematician, created the game to demonstrate principles of strategy and tactics.

There are also historical accounts that suggest that the game was developed over time by various cultures. For example, the Persian game of Shatranj was similar to chess and may have influenced its development.

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Many cultures have made chess an integral part of their traditions, and people worldwide continue to play it today.

How Has Chess Evolved?

Here’s a full map of chess’ evolution throughout history:

Origins in Ancient India

Chess has a rich and complex history that spans over a millennium. The game originated in northern India during the Gupta Empire, sometime around the 6th century AD.

Spread to Persia

The game spread to Persia and became known as Shatranj. There, the chess pieces were given their modern names and were modified to include their current moves.

Evolution in Europe

Over time, chess continued to evolve and adapt as it spread across the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. By the 13th century, chess had made its way to Europe, where it became prevalent among royalty and the nobility.

Middle Ages: Rules in Flux

During the middle ages, the rules of the game were still in a state of flux. For example, some versions of the game featured a counselor piece instead of a bishop, and the movement of the chess pieces, such as the pawn and the knight, was different from what we see in modern chess.

Emergence of Queen

The introduction of the queen as the most dominant chess piece on the board was a significant change that occurred in the 15th century. This change and other modifications made the game faster and more aggressive.

Renaissance and Modern Era

Nevertheless, the game continued to evolve during the Renaissance and into the modern era, with new strategies and tactics emerging. The pawn promotion was allowed, enabling it to become any piece, except the king.

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International Tournaments

Another significant development in the game came in the 19th century when international chess tournaments began. These tournaments helped to standardize the rules of the game and promote its popularity around the world.

One of the most famous tournaments of this era was the 1851 London tournament, which featured players from around Europe and helped to establish the game as a ruthless competitive pursuit.

Chess Today

From casual games between friends to high-stakes professional matches, people continue to play chess at all levels today. It is no longer just a pastime but has become an area of research in artificial intelligence.

Chess engines have become more advanced with the help of computer technology, enabling them to compete against humans at the highest levels. It has made computer chess more popular and made it possible to analyze games at a level never before possible.

How Chess Overcame Criticism and Became a Global Phenomenon?

When chess first emerged, many criticized it as a threat to society.

The Early Criticisms of Chess

The criticisms about chess centered on two main concerns: the potential for distraction and its perceived association with gambling.

  • Distraction:In the early years of chess, many people believed chess was a dangerous distraction that would lead players to neglect their work and other responsibilities. Governments in many countries banned chess, and they punished those caught playing it severely. For instance, in 13th-century Spain, authorities fined, whipped, and even amputated the hands of chess players.
  • Gambling:Another concern was that chess was associated with gambling. In many parts of the world, chess was played in gambling houses and viewed as a gateway to other forms of gambling. It led to a negative perception of the game, with many people associating it with vice and immorality.
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How Chess Overcame Criticisms

Although initially criticized, chess slowly gained popularity and became particularly favored among the nobility. It was introduced to Europe in the 15th century and underwent refinement to establish the rules and structure recognized today.

  • Intellectualism:One of the factors that helped chess gain acceptance was its association with intellectualism. In the 18th and 19th centuries, intellectuals such as philosophers, artists, and writers played the game. It elevated its status and helped to establish it as a respectable pastime.
  • Competitive play:Another factor was the rise of competitive play. Organized tournaments and championships legitimized chess as a sport, alleviating concerns about gambling and increasing its acceptance.


Chess has a rich history and enduring popularity, offering a battle of wits that requires strategic thinking, anticipation, and problem-solving skills. Its evolution has made it faster and more aggressive while maintaining its complexity and depth.

Despite early criticisms for its potential distractions and association with gambling, chess gradually gained popularity, especially among the nobility.

Today, chess draws players of various ages and skill levels, providing endless possibilities for learning, growth, and challenge.

By delving into the rich history of chess and its inventors, we can gain a deeper appreciation for this ancient game and the strategic thinkers who created it. So, why not try this time-honored strategy game and see where it takes you?