Section 2 - When and Where Did Chess Start? Continued

The Karnamak-i-Artakshatr-i-Papakan is one of the three pieces of narrative literature whose Pahlavi texts still exist. It happens that one of the others is a work explicitly devoted to chess. This is the Chatrang-namagh or Vizarishn i Chatrang. The work is ascribed to the seventh century, and its writer places his story in the reign of Chosroes I. It has been summarized as follows:

The Shah of India whose name in the Pahlavi scripts has been read as Divsarm or Yasodharm, sends presents to Anosharvan and a game of chess with a letter inviting the King of Iran to have this game explained by his wise men; if they are unsuccessful in this, Anosharvan must pay a tribute to the Indian King. Anosharvan asks for a three days' respite. The learned men of Persia try in vain to explain the game. But on the third day, Vuzurgmihr, son of Boktagn, presents himself and offers to explain the game and at the same time to replace another game of his own invention in the messengers' hands, which the King of India must have explained by his scholars under penalty of paying a double tribute to Persia. The following day, Vuzurgmihr explains the game of chess and wins twelve games against the messenger. Thereafter Vuzurgmihr is sent to the court of the Indian King with all kinds pf precious objects, and presents to that king the game of tric-trac invented by him - a game which he designates under the name of Nev-Ardasher, and which is generally called Nard. The king asks for a delay of fourteen days to consult his sages, but as nobody knew how to explain the game, he remits the double tribute to Vuzurgmihr and sends him back with rich presents and great honours.

The invention of the Chatrang-namagh is to exalt the Persians at the expense of the Indians. The central event of the story is clearly implausible from looking at a chess set, you cannot logically deduce the rules of the game. (Would you deduce that the queen was the weak queen of medieval chess, or the all-powerful queen of modern chess…?) It nonetheless emerges from the two Pahlavi texts I have quoted that the writers could assume general familiarity with chess among the seventh century Persian audience they were addressing.

Chess: Its Origins Volume II - Section 2 Continued...

Control Management Books
Suite One, Third Floor
One Duchess Street
Tel: +44(0) 20 7436 3717
Fax:+44(0) 20 7436 3107

About the Author | Contact Details | Links
Extracts | Reviews | Purchase