Chess in Jewish History and Hebrew Literature (Published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) deals with the origins of chess from before 500 A.D. and its appearance in Jewish sources and literature until the middle of the 19th century. Chess is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, and Jews played a part in the spread of the game through medieval writings on chess, primarily in Spain.
The book covers allusions in chess in Hebrew literature together with background material on the historical periods concerned.
Among the sources examined are Judah Halevi's 12th century reference to chess in Ha-Kuzari, Abraham Ibn Ezra's 11th century Hebrew chess poem, which may be the earliest exposition of the rules of chess written in Europe, and Ma'adane Melech, The Delight of Kings, originally by Yehuda di Modena, and is translated into English for the first time. Jews were also connected with the Juegos de Axedrez, which was translated for Alphonso the Wise in 1283. Luis de Lucena, author of the 1497 chess book, Repetición de amores y arte de Axedrez, was Jewish until forced by the Inquisition to convert.
The Ma'aseh Book, Moses Mendelssohn, and Lessing's Nathan the Wise, all refer to chess in the 18th century and perceive its cultural importance for the Jews. In the first half of the 19th century two important Hebrew chess works were written - Zevi Uri Rubinstein's treatise, and Jacob Eichenbaum's 1840 poem, The Struggle. Both are translated here for the first time.
Chess in Jewish History and Hebrew Literature contains many of the hidden or overlooked gems of chess literature along with much that is well known but unavailable, and provides authoritative translations, some completely new. It is an entertaining and informative survey, and will delight all those interested in the history of chess and its literature.
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