Who invented the game of Chess?


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Hey kid, I know we’ve talked before about board games. Go ahead, shout out your favorite. Nice, I heard Monopoly, Clue, Battleship, Risk, Candyland. Great games, many of which were made by my old friends, Milton Bradley and George Parker.

Without a doubt, I am the greatest board game maker of all time. I myself invented more than 100 games, which would make me the greatest board game maker. Now wait a second, Parker. You wait a second, Bradley.

But do you know which board game is the most popular of all time worldwide? You could say it’s the king and queen of board games. In fact, that’s also a clue, as in among the 32 pieces for this game, there’s a king and queen.

Did you guess it? That’s right, it’s chess. Boring. Wait, who said that? I did. Chess is boring. Sorry, not sorry. While you’re entitled to your opinion, I must beg to differ. Chess is actually pretty exciting.

Um, I see old people playing it in the park. Old people equals boring. Oh yeah? Well, what if I told you the story of how chess was created included wars, invasions, and fake robots? Fake robots? I’m listening.

Oh, that’s just the beginning. Chess is one of the few games that people of all ages can play, and there are literally millions of different combinations and ways to win. Okay, I guess that’s kind of cool.

Oh, trust me, it’s cool. But who invented chess? Why do the pieces have funny names? And what the heck is a grandmaster? You’re asking me? Nope, but I’m about to tell you. It’s time for another whiff of science and history.

on who’s smarted who’s smart is it you is it me is it science or history listen up everyone we make smarting lots of fun but who’s smarted okay be honest the first time you heard about chess you were probably like my friend here and thought boring hey i was the same way if someone suggested playing a game of chess i would literally make up any excuse to get out of it sorry i have to take my goldfish mango to the vet but once i learned the rules and more about the history of the game i realized chess is not only fascinating but really fun too um since when are rules fun this i gotta hear okay so before we delve into the history of chess let me lay out the basics chess is played by two people head to head on a checkered board with 64 squares on it isn’t that just checkers same board different game stay with me now each player starts with 16 pieces that you place on the two rows closest to you there are eight little pawns in the front row and then a back row made up of two rooks or castles two knights or horses two bishops one queen and one king okay that’s easy enough i guess okay now here comes the first fun part each piece has a very specific way it’s allowed to move across the board for instance pawns can only go straightforward one square except for your first move it can go two squares sounds very exciting the king is kind of like a pawn in that it can only move one square at a time but it can go in any direction all hail the king oh that’s nothing compared to the queen the queen can move in any direction as many spaces as she wants to hmm did a lady in ventures we’ll get to that the rook or castle can move any number of squares up, down, or across, while the bishop can only move diagonally.

The knight or horse is the only piece that’s allowed to jump over other pieces and it moves in an L shape, either one square up and two squares over, or two squares up and one square over. I might need to write this down.

Oh, trust me, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Okay, so these pieces move around. What’s the point? The object of the game is to move your pieces around to trap the other person’s king so it can’t move anymore.

And that’s called checkmate. Mm, sounds complicated. I’ll stick with checkers. Wait, hang on. Chess can be complicated at first, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before I explain exactly what chess is, you need to understand where it came from.

Any guesses as to where chess was first invented? Let me think. Um, the boring straight? No fun to stand? Snoozelandia? Haha, very funny. The answer is nobody knows exactly where chess began but most historians believe it originated in India Then after people from the Middle East invaded India They brought the game back home to Persia where a series of invasions followed that eventually spread chess to southern Europe the Americas and beyond So chess spread around the world because of war Is that why the pieces are called kings and queens and knights and stuff again?

No one really knows, but we do know chess is old Really old as in over 1 ,500 years starting around 600 CE Back then the game was known as chaturanga inhale and chaturanga and exhale No, not like the yoga pose chaturanga This chaturanga was an ancient Indian strategy game that is thought to be the common ancestor of chess But it wasn’t quite like the game we play today Some of the pieces were called foot soldiers.

There was a minister and chariots even elephants that could leap over other pieces So, let me guess the minister became the bishop right actually the minister became the queen Oh, but the elephants who could leap over pieces became knights or horses Nope, the elephants became the bishops So then the chariots became the knights because chariots have horses No, the chariots became castles or what we now call rooks, dude.

This is super confusing. Can we just play checkers? I know I know. Sorry. Let’s back up again After the game of chaturanga reached Europe in medieval times That’s where the game went through a series of modifications to reflect the Royal Society of that time This is when the minister became the most powerful piece on the board the Queen at the same time women were ruling England Scotland and France.

Oh and those foot soldiers. We call those pawns today amazing I’m still not getting why this game is so popular. Anywho Historians think it was between 1475 and 1485 that a game similar to modern chess appeared in Italy, Spain, or France.

That’s when the queen and bishop gained new powers and started moving like they do today. The game reflects a mini -version of life during feudal times. The pieces themselves, like the knight, the rook, the bishop, and the pawns, represent how society was set up during the Middle Ages, reflecting the strategies nations and their military took to conquer territory and win wars.

But perhaps nothing in the history of chess is as fascinating as the game’s association with one of history’s most famous pranks. I like pranks. Oh good, then you’ll love this one, which I’m going to tell you all about right after this quick break.

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I also put the link in the show notes. Happy summer, happy Father’s Day and happy eating. Now back to who smarted. So way back in the late 1700s an inventor named Wolfgang von Kempelon created a so -called machine that could play chess.

Tadaa introducing the term. It is a machine that plays chess. Think you can beat the Turk? Step right up and take your chances. What was it? Was it like a robot? Nope. A supercomputer? Nope. It was a life -size model of a human head and torso, dressed in robes and turban, attached to a table with a chessboard on it, and there were gears and levers everywhere.

Oh, so it was a machine? Nope. It was a person who was really good at chess, hiding in a cabinet, underneath a table with a head and torso. What? People thought they were playing a machine, but they were really playing the person crouched below.

Whoa. The Turk traveled the world beating opponents across Europe and America, including Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin. Checkmate again. I can’t win. I’m gonna go fly a kite. For nearly 84 years, this machine defeated all challengers to the amazement of everyone.

But while the machine was fake, it may have led to the next big advancement in the game of chess. Competition. In the 1800s, prominent chess tournaments were beginning to take place throughout Europe where the rules evolved.

Soon, they began timing the games. Today, chess competitions are serious and require a ton of concentration and brain power. In fact, chess has become a serious sport. Just like the NFL and NBA, chess has a dedicated organization known as the World Chess Federation that sets the rules and is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

That’s amazing. A campaign was just launched to include chess in the Paris Olympic Games in 2024. Chess? In the Olympics? Yep, it might happen. Some of today’s top players are internationally famous for their extreme level of skill.

Like me. Hello, I’m Magnus Carlsen from Norway and I am the current best chess player in the world. I was named Grandmaster in 2004 when I was just 14 years old. 14? Whoa, I’m 10 and I just learned how to put the pieces on the board.

That’s okay. It’s never too late or too early to get started playing chess. You can even get started right on your cell phone or iPad. There are tons of free apps you can download to learn how to play, practice against a computer of varying skill levels, or play online with friends.

And some apps were even developed by Magnus Carlsen himself. Hmm, maybe chess isn’t so lame after all. I think I might check out the app and learn how to play. And maybe one day I can be… A Grandmaster?

No, the guy hiding under the table pretending to be a robot. That’s cool. Checkmate. A special shout out to my smarty friend, Webb, in Austin, Texas, who listens to Who Smarted in the Car all the time.

Webb also wrote to tell us, I love learning things from you. Thanks, buddy. We’re very happy to have you smarting with us. This episode, Chess, was written by Jason Williams and voiced by Imogen Williams, Brandon Bayless, Taya Garland, Jason Williams, and Jerry Colbert.

Technical direction and sound design by Josh Han. Who Smarted is recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studios. Our associate producer is Max Kamaski. The theme song is by Brian Suarez, with lyrics written and performed by Adam Tex -Davis.

Who Smarted was created and produced by Adam Tex -Davis and Jerry Colbert. This is an Atomic Entertainment production.