A brief history of chess – Alex Gendler

The attacking infantry advances steadily, their elephants already having
broken the defensive line. The king tries to retreat, but enemy
cavalry flanks him from the rear. Escape is impossible. But this isn’t a real war– nor is it just a game. Over the roughly one-and-a-half millennia
of its existence, chess has been known as a tool
of military strategy, a metaphor for human affairs,
and a benchmark of genius. While our earliest records of chess
are in the 7th century, legend tells that the game’s origins
lie a century earlier. Supposedly, when the youngest prince
of the Gupta Empire was killed in battle, his brother devised a way of representing
the scene to their grieving mother. Set on the 8×8 ashtapada board used for
other popular pastimes, a new game emerged with two key features: different rules for moving
different types of pieces, and a single king piece whose fate
determined the outcome. The game was originally
known as chaturanga– a Sanskrit word for “four divisions.” But with its spread to Sassanid Persia, it acquired its current name
and terminology– “chess,” derived from “shah,” meaning
king, and “checkmate” from “shah mat,” or “the king is helpless.” After the 7th century Islamic conquest
of Persia, chess was introduced to the Arab world. Transcending its role as a
tactical simulation, it eventually became a rich source
of poetic imagery. Diplomats and courtiers used chess terms
to describe political power. Ruling caliphs became avid
players themselves. And historian al-Mas’udi considered the
game a testament to human free will compared to games of chance. Medieval trade along the Silk Road carried
the game to East and Southeast Asia, where many local variants developed. In China, chess pieces were placed at
intersections of board squares rather than inside them, as in the native
strategy game Go. The reign of Mongol leader Tamerlane saw
an 11×10 board with safe squares called citadels. And in Japanese shogi, captured pieces
could be used by the opposing player. But it was in Europe that chess began to
take on its modern form. By 1000 AD, the game had become part
of courtly education. Chess was used as an allegory for different social classes performing
their proper roles, and the pieces were re-interpreted
in their new context. At the same time, the Church remained
suspicious of games. Moralists cautioned against devoting
too much time to them, with chess even being briefly
banned in France. Yet the game proliferated, and the 15th century saw it cohering into
the form we know today. The relatively weak piece of advisor was
recast as the more powerful queen– perhaps inspired by the recent surge
of strong female leaders. This change accelerated the game’s pace, and as other rules were popularized, treatises analyzing common openings
and endgames appeared. Chess theory was born. With the Enlightenment era, the game
moved from royal courts to coffeehouses. Chess was now seen as an expression
of creativity, encouraging bold moves and dramatic plays. This “Romantic” style reached its peak
in the Immortal Game of 1851, where Adolf Anderssen managed a checkmate after sacrificing his queen
and both rooks. But the emergence of formal competitive
play in the late 19th century meant that strategic calculation would
eventually trump dramatic flair. And with the rise of international
competition, chess took on a new
geopolitical importance. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union devoted great resources
to cultivating chess talent, dominating the championships for the rest
of the century. But the player who would truly upset
Russian dominance was not a citizen of another country but an IBM computer called Deep Blue. Chess-playing computers had been
developed for decades, but Deep Blue’s triumph
over Garry Kasparov in 1997 was the first time a machine
had defeated a sitting champion. Today, chess software is capable of
consistently defeating the best human players. But just like the game they’ve mastered, these machines are products
of human ingenuity. And perhaps that same ingenuity will guide
us out of this apparent checkmate.

100 thoughts on “A brief history of chess – Alex Gendler”

  1. Grew up playing and competing in chess tournaments. We used to study chess books and battle against old school AI's. Nowadays, I guess it's a lot easier to study chess because of chess apps. But a lot harder to gain interest in chess for the kids because of the video games imho.

  2. Can you guys make a video about biochemistry… I am currently in grade 12 and everything doesn’t make sense knowing that I didn’t even take chemistry before…

  3. Chess seems like such a simple game, yet its moves and positions are so many, the biggest and most powerful computers in existence still cannot completely determine the best possible strategy.

  4. How many moves are possible in chess? I mean having such a long history, sure we can predict every moves, loss, and victory by now?

  5. Playing chess itself is a form of art… where creativeness is in your every move….. and your aim is not just to win but to protect every shot to end with glory, proving cooperation, leadership, courage and wilderness at the same time… just in single board

  6. I’m surprised with all the examples of chess in Europe, why wasn’t the game played between the master of Europe and the Turk described.


  8. It didn't take on its modern form in Europe, it's just the European form of chess/shahmat, as xiangqi or shoggi are the chinese are japanese versions.

  9. There is an old Indian movie called "Shatranj Ke Khilari" (The Chess Players) based on short story of same title where two royalties are so addicted to Chess that they are still engrossed in it while British keep annexing their kingdom.

  10. Seriously… I created a speech that I titled "a brief history of chess" and I thought that it was clever and unique. I was about to present it tomorrow. I guess that is what I get for not claiming the title in a legal manner… There is probably even an article titled the same thing that is even older than this video.

  11. Chess ♟ – Chanturanga (Sanskrit word) – Checkmate shah – GuptaPeroid – Indian Invention proud The mind game to develop knowledge and skills to analysis skills – FourDecisions – Decision making Diplomatic skill it used by the king in the war 👍👍👍👍👍 Viswanathan Anand Indian chess player ♟♟♟♟

  12. When it comes down to IBM deep blue Vs. Kasparov, I think TED presented a bias narrative here. In his book “ Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins”, Kasparove claims that he was cheated and ultimately lost to a human rather than the machine itself. Generally speaking TED on the down-low promotes a Eurocentric view of the history.

  13. We also make high-production value chess videos – and we don't get the board orientation wrong 😉

    also: Good job TED! Great video despite the small flaws.

  14. Chess was also called सतरन्ज or satranjh and was played in india in the same way as the rules and form it exists in modern days
    There are several evidence of it from 14th century to 19th century

  15. Chess first played about 5000 years ago According to Mahabharata (hindu ritual scripture)..Sakuni was most tactical player(the unfair man) because of him pandba lose their b kingdom & went to jungle for 14 year….

  16. 0:53 , sheath is clearly curved., and looks like it came from India. 0:54, sword is a European style arming sword. What is going on?

  17. this sophisticated meticulous presenting of an idea with a beautiful animated video that captivates us every time really uncovers the brilliancy of the folks behind the scenes

  18. When I tell people I play chess, they assume I must be smart. I'm not smart. I just know the rules and some good combos with certain pieces. Chess is not that diffecult people.

  19. Amazing, we use the name "šach" (shah) and "šach mat" (shah mat) in Slovak language, too. Interesting how many words from arabic world are still around in slavic languages.

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