Antiquity Of Chess

(New York Times) When two people with a long evening ahead sit across a checkered board, while a single lamp throws weird shadows from thirty-two odd-shaped pieces of ivory, this bustling era slips away. What if -half an hour may pass before a hand is lifted? Chess has a "tempo of its own; it belongs to the ages.

A thousand years ago Italian clerics willingly underwent penance for "sporting away their evenings amidst the vanity of chess/' Centuries before in desert tents, bearded Arabs manoeu-vered craftily with rukh (rook) and al-fil (elephant—now the bishop) in the pastime they called shatranj. Before them were the Persians, who gave the game their word for king—shah— to be corrupted through transliteración into 'chess." And the Persians, in turn, were indebted to Hindustan.

That, at least, is the background most widely accepted in the literature of chess—a literature more extensive than that of any other sport. Last week a new research contribution was offered. At the excavation of Tepe Gawra, in Northern Iraq, diggers for the University of Pennsylvania Museum reported discovery of a collection of terra-cotta figures closely resembling some of the chessmen used in various stages of the game's development. The pieces, well-worn, appeared in strata 6,000 years old, indicating that the Mesopotamians of 4000 B. C. might have played with them. Chess experts were dubious of this extension of their game's pedigree; ic was probably some other game, they suggested.

0 0

Post a comment