Chess is simple and complicated at the same time, because reasoning and not luck is the decisive factor if you want to win.
Your game is only as good as your worst move
Chess is relatively simple to learn, as it is based on only a few rules. Nevertheless it is one of the most complex board games in the world. After only two moves there can be over 70,000 possible different positions. The number of possible game sequences is several times higher. Therefore the more positions a chess player knows, the better his chances of anticipating his opponent’s moves in advance. So what is needed is a good helping of intuition as well as knowledge and the skill to make combinations. However, what really accounts for the fascination of this ancient game with its countless game sequences and sole objective of defeating the opponent’s king?
MADE IN INDIA
The existence of the game of chess can be traced back to the year 500 AD. It is unclear how and where it originated exactly. As the starting position of the chess figures corresponds to the individual positions of the Indian army at the time, it can be assumed that it spread from the North of India in all directions. However, it takes its name from the Persian: «Shah» is still the Persian word for «King» today; «mat» means «helpless» in Persian. The modern version of chess has travelled the globe during its fifteen hundred year development. Rules, symbols and a number of national and cultural features from Eastern and Western cultures have become part of the game in that time. The game was most popular among knights. As early as the 11th century it was one of the seven skills of the knights, in addition to riding, swimming, shooting, wrestling, bird-catching and string instruments. In contrast to the other skills practiced by the knights, chess was a chamber sport for winter evenings and bad weather. At the latest by the end of the 13th century, chess had spread from the court to the courtyards.
THE GAME OF INTELLECTUALS
However, those who played chess up to the 18th century stood out from the populace and formed a privileged minority, as they were both wealthy and educated. Chess was considered something special, a luxurious pastime for idlers. And you do need time for this game, when you consider that the longest chess game took over 20 hours with 269 moves. Philosophers such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Napoleon Bonaparte went to great lengths to improve their chess game. They often visited the Paris Café de la Régence, where François André Philidor and other champions of their time socialised. And even today the «Game of kings» remains highly popular. Because as Schopenhauer stated: «The game of chess surpasses all other games to the extent that Chimborazo surpasses a dung heap.»
MAN AGAINST A MACHINE
Chess was the benchmark for artificial intelligence for a long period of time. Programmes such as «Fritz Chess» can play to such a high level because the computer has the capacity to analyse several million moves in one second. The computer Deep Blue, which beat Gary Kasparow, the chess world champion at the time, in 1997, even managed 100 million moves per second. Nevertheless there have been only a few occasions when a computer has beaten a professional chess player. People may think slower than computers, but apparently not any less effectively. No one will ever master chess completely – with its openings, tricks and millions of game sequences. And that is exactly the factor that gives it its particular appeal.
VICTORY FOR WHITE
Statistically seen white wins more often than black, approximately 54 percent of games. The reason for this is that white opens the game and as such has a time advantage in the development of the pieces.
Problem chess is a special variation on the classic chess game. In contrast to two parties playing each other, a chess composer designs and publishes a chess problem, which has to be solved. In other words: Chess without a partner. Chess composition is primarily a matter of aesthetic criteria.
There are no good or bad players. There are only good or bad moves.”
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