20 July is celebrated as International Chess Day or World Chess Day every year. It marks the anniversary of the International Chess Federation. On this very day, the International Chess Federation was established in Paris (France) in the year 1924. It is also known as the World Chess Federation or by its French acronym FIDE ( Fédération Internationale des Échecs).
While World Chess Day is being observed since 1966, this year is even more special for chess lovers. This is because the observance received official status from the United Nations last year in December 2019. So starting from 20 July 2020, World Chess Day would be officially observed by the United Nations every year on 20 July.
Objectives of the World Chess Day
One of the prime objectives behind the observance of World Chess Day is to acknowledge the role of the International Chess Federation. The Federation plays a critical role in supporting international cooperation for chess activity. It also aims to improve friendly harmony among people all across the world. The observance also provides a significant platform for fostering peace in every possible way-from initiating dialogue to showcasing solidarity and establishing the peace culture.
Importance of World Chess Day
Chess is not just a game for entertainment. This ancient board game has been educating humanity across centuries. From following rules to adherence to equality of opportunity and mutual understanding — chess has the potential to imprint positive changes on people’s minds. It is a global game that inculcates fairness, inclusion, and mutual respect. It, thus, contributes to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding among peoples and nations.
Being an affordable board game, it is played across the barriers and has the power to change perceptions and inspire people. It is a combination of sports, art, mathematical calculations, scientific temper, and strategic thinking. From inclusive education to empowerment and from gender equality to fostering harmony, there is so much which is offered by the game of chess. These attributes are nothing but opportunities that can play a critical role in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Game of Chess
Chess is a strategy board game played between two players. One on the white side and the other on the black side. It is played on a chequered board having 64 squares (a combination of 8×8 grid). Each player has 16 pieces. The pieces are as follows:
- One King
- One Queen
- Two Rooks
- Two Knights
- Two Bishops
- Eight Pawns
Each type of piece has a prescribed set of possible moves. The players on each side accordingly move their pieces with an aim to capture the opponent’s “king” piece. The capture of the king concludes the game. The one who captures the opponent’s king is declared as the winner of the game.
History of Chess
It is a common belief that Chess originated during the Gupta period as Chaturanga. Gupta Empire ruled the Northern Indian Subcontinent between ~319-543 CE. It is likely that the board game would have spread from North India to Persia along the silk roads. The meaning of Chaturanga is “four divisions”. It is not clear though whether the divisions referred to four types of pieces or the players of the game. Unlike today, the classical game had four players.
A 600 CE Persian manuscript also mentions about Chaturanga as Chatrang (later Shatranj). As per the manuscript, an ambassador from the Indian sub-continent presented the game as a gift to Khosrow I (531-579 CE). Through Persia, it spread to Arabia and Byzantium, the ancient Greek city.
Around 1000 CE, chess gained popularity in Europe and Russia. Since then, across many centuries, chess and variants of chess remain one of the most popular games across the globe.
Interesting Facts About Chess
- Being a classical game, chess has over 2000 identifiable variants.
- In Persian, shah means “king” and maat means “defeat”. Hence, the phrase “shah maat“ became popular for capturing the king piece. In fact, the English word “Checkmate” is a derivative of this Persian phrase.
- A knight can make over 122 million possible moves on the chessboard.
- Indian chess grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand has won the world championship in the three formats of chess – knockout, tournament, and match.
- It is possible to achieve checkmate in two moves. It is called “Two Move Checkmate” or “Fool’s Mate Runs”. The first move is G4 E5 and the second move is F4 QH4 — and Checkmate! However, this can only be achieved by the black on move 2 with the queen. Intriguing, isn’t it?
- It may take you by surprise but the second book ever printed in English was about chess.
- 26 years and 337 days is the recorded time period — for holding the chess champion title for longest. The longest championship title holder was a German chess player named Dr. Emanuel Lasker.
- Chess is a strategic game. Theoretically, the longest possible game of chess can have 5,949 moves. So far, this has not been achieved. In fact, the longest game ever played was in 1989 between Nikolic and Arsovic in Belgrade. The game lasted 269 moves in 20 hrs and finally ended in a draw.
- Father of modern computer, Alan Turing developed the very first computer program for playing chess in 1951. Back then, however, the computers were not that powerful to process such a game. This left Turing with no other option but to test it by doing the calculation on his own. He played as per the outcome.
- Pawns are referred to as foot soldiers in the game of chess at most places. Interestingly, this is not the case in German and Spanish. In these areas, pawns represent a peasant or a farmer.