It is thought that the game of chess first originated in what we now know as Afghanistan or Northern India, this was before 600 AD. There have been unverified claims that chess actually existed as early as 100 AD, however the first written references to the game were not until 600AD. There have been some chess pieces such as the King found in the Isle Of Lewis which is northeast of Scotland that dates to around 1200 AD.
The interest in chess seems to have come out of India and followed the trade routes from there. One such variation of chess called Shogi is very popular in Japan and yet another variation is popular and played in China. Because of the fact that the game of chess is played differently in different countries – many places have their own slight variations on the rules of the game.
The game played by Americans and Europeans is known to have come from Iran and was passed through Italy and Spain and this was around 1000 AD. After this the Vikings carried the game by sea to places such as Iceland and Scandinavia. Around the time of 1100-1200 AD the game was well known in central Europe and was completely established by the year 1400 AD along with the rules that we now play chess under today. One country who has dominance in the world with the game of Chess is Russia. After the communist revolution in 1917 they set up special government schools especially for talented chess players.
The design of many modern chess pieces today bear the name Staunton, he was an English master around the time of the mid 1800’s. These modern pieces bearing his name are now used in all tournaments right around the world.
The very first Chess tournament was held in 1851 in London and it was won by Adolf Anderssen from Germany and although he did not win any title or award he became known as the world’s best chess player – though this was never made official.
The very first American born chess player, who was one of the best of his time, was Paul Morphy and he was playing during the civil war era. In 1850 he travelled Europe and beat every challenger he played against including Adolf Anderssen. However, the best player at the time, Staunton, refused to play against him so Paul Morphy was never able to become an official world chess champion.
The very first official chess championship tournament commenced in 1866 and was also played in London. During this tournament they used sandclocks to limit the amount of time a game could be played. This tournament was won by a man named Steinitz who was a Czechosolvakian Jew and he became the world’s first official chess champion, a title which he held until 1894. Emanual Lasker took the title from him that year and held it until 1921 when he was beaten by a Cuban man named Jose Capablanca who then held the title until 1927. It is thought by many in the chess world that Jose Capablanca, Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer are the top three chess players to have ever lived.