Friday, 24 August 2012
Although in two player chess the King is hardly the most powerful piece (the Queen must surely take that position) he is the most precious. In any chess game rules the KIng is the piece that decides defeat, victory or even stalemate.
In the original chess game in ancient India the King was just that, a king or emperor, and above the fighting, which was carried out by the foot soldiers and generals. This once more brings chess game rules into line with military strategy; in any war, if the king is captured then it is all over. This is the case with chess and explains why the King, amongst all the pieces of a chess set, has the most limited manoeuvrability.
The King can move in any direction - horizontally, vertically or diagonally - but only one space at a time. He takes another of the chess pieces by landing on its square. Of course, the King cannot be taken but if he is put into a position where he might have otherwise been taken he is said to be put into 'Check' and he must move out of danger before any other move is made. But he can never move into a square where he would also be similarly threatened.
Of course, there comes a point when the King is in Check in the square he is now in and would be in any other square he could move into. This is then termed 'Checkmate' and the opposing player has won the game. For this reason, players frequently take care to protect their King.
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Friday, 17 August 2012
You may be looking for chess sets to buy and are looking at the various themed chess sets available to buy and you might even consider a nice carved chess set. One of the pieces that that varies very little in design is the Knight (unless you are buying a Winnie the Pooh chess set, of course!).
In the original Indian Chaturanga form of chess, the Knight was shown as a mounted warrior with a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. In all the chess sets since, the Knight has had an equestrian theme with the Medieval chess sets going to town with a nice carved warrior on horseback.
Of course the Knight is unique in the way it moves. It leaps two squares up and one diagonally: it has been said this movement (also pretty well unchanged through the ages) imitates the skittish movement of a horse. This is also the only one of the pieces of a chess set that can leap over other pieces (again, an equestrian characteristic?). It takes another piece by landing on the square occupied by that piece in its final landing.
A Knight can be valuable during a game as it moves in a more unpredictable way than other pieces, although it can be threatened by Pawns if it lands amongst them. It's very erratic movement can be a weakness, as the player needs to understand where it can move next or which of the opponent's pieces threaten the Knight. For this reason many top players rate a Bishop more highly. However, a Knight may be a greater threat to a Queen, as the latter cannot take it so easily.
The movement of the Knight has lead to a mathematical pattern called 'the Knight's Tour.' This tracks the progression of the piece around a chessboard and produces a fascinating trace. Tracking the movement has become a classic challenge to set computer students. Interestingly, this pattern was first identified in India in the ninth Century and the first mathematical procedure was published in 1823.
So there you have it: the Knight is not only of historical interest but mathematical note too. And you just thought the pieces of a chess set were decorative!
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Continuing the look at the pieces of a chess set, this time we lean a little more about the Bishop. Sit down to have a game of two player chess and you will see this interesting piece three squares in from each corner.
The Bishop is one of the most confused pieces, as it is known by different names around the world. In the original Indian and Persian chess sets it was represented as an armed attendant sitting on the back of an elephant, indeed, the Arabic name for the piece is 'Al-fil' or 'elephant.'
As elephants in medieval Europe would not be recognised, the piece took on different identities. Many languages depict the Bishop as a 'runner' or 'messenger' ('Laufer' in German and 'Loper' in Dutch, for example) although in Romania the piece is known as 'Nebun' or crazy person.
The piece has changed names in French, originally known as the 'Aufin' (the Archer), which reflects the Arabic name and original character, it is now more known as the 'Fou' or 'fool' or 'jester.' The Spanish still use the Arabic derivation as 'Alfil' and in Russia it is still an elephant ('Slon').
Our description 'Bishop' may come from Scandinavia. The twelfth century Lewis chess set shows a churchman in this position and Iceland has long known the piece as the 'Biskup,' with the same meaning as our word bishop.
The shape of the Bishop has changed too and our modern Bishop tends to date back to the first Staunton chess set of 1849. The different names of the piece interpret its shape. The name Bishop came from the belief the piece wore a mitre but the French saw it as a jester's cap. Interestingly the groove in the top may still be a reference to the tusks of an elephant.
The movement of the Bishop has changed over the years too but the modern piece can only move diagonally. At one stage this was restricted to a few squares but now of course it can move across the whole board: this makes it one of the most valuable of the pieces of a chess set.
As with most other pieces, the Bishop cannot jump over another piece or change direction in a move and takes an opponents piece by landing on the square occupied by the victim.
So next time you settle down with your new themed chess set, you might reflect on this, one of the most interesting pieces of a chess set.
Friday, 3 August 2012
When you start playing the noble game of chess and learn the chess basics, one of the pieces of a chess set that will first draw your eye is the 'Castle,' more correctly termed the 'Rook.'
The word Rook may at first seem an odd name for this piece, which is indeed shaped like the turret of a castle - so the word castle seems more appropriate. However the name Rook comes from the Arab name for it, which is 'Rukhkh' and the ancient Persian name was similar: 'Rukh.'
Rooks are almost as valuable as the Queen as they can move quickly around the board and surprise an inattentive opponent. They move up and across the board (but only one direction per move) using both the Ranks and Files but cannot move diagonally. The Rook however cannot jump over other pieces in the way a Knight can.
Other pieces are taken by the Rook landing on the victim's square.
Of course at the start of the game all the valuable pieces of a chess set are hemmed in by the Pawns but, once these are moved forward, the Rooks and other pieces are let loose.
The Rook is often the most likely piece to put a King into check; in fact, two Rooks working together and trapping the King in a corner is probably the classic way (and one of the simplest ways) to ensure checkmate.