Learning About Chess

As I start learning about chess, my fascination with the topic started to grow, arousing countless questions about the subject. Firstly, when exactly did chess emerge? Although there are numerous theories about the origin of chess, for example, in ancient Egypt, Greece, and China, there seems to be a consensus that chess originated from chaturanga, a strategy game from Ancient India. Unlike the current chess, only specific pieces of chaturanga could move after throwing two dice. The shape of the chessboard was also a cross rather than a square. Additionally, it was a team game of four people with two facing each other in the same team. Chaturanga soon spread to Persia and enjoyed great popularity. However, as Islamic law strengthened, all gambling including dice games was completely banned. Among the Persians who lost their enjoyment, someone devised a new game played by two players without dice, called shatranj. This game spread to the West and became the current form of chess. 

Know About Chess

Secondly, how did the shape of the chess pieces change over time? Chaturanga originally started with eight pieces: one king, one rook (chariot), one knight (horse), one aufin, and four pawns (soldiers). When the game transformed into shatranj in Persia, the number of all pieces doubled and a piece called ferz was added. The movements of the king, rook, and knight from Chaturanga were identical to the movements of today; however, different from the modern bishop, aufin could only move two squares diagonally. Additionally, ferz was also a weak piece, different from the queen of modern chess, that could only move one square diagonally. Later the Arabs replaced aufin with an elephant and in the middle of the 16th century, the Spaniards replaced the elephant with a bishop and the ferz with a queen, increasing the power of these pieces. The bishop now became a long-range piece that can move diagonally and the queen became the most powerful piece that could move freely around the chessboard. As the rules were adapted, chess became a fast-paced game. 

Types of Chess Pieces

Lastly, what are the types of chess pieces and how do they move on the chessboard? Firstly, the king is the most crucial piece but is one of the weakest pieces. It can move in any direction – front, backward, sideways, or diagonal – one square at a time. It cannot move to the position it might get caught. When the king can get caught by another piece of the opponent, it is called a “Check”. Secondly, the queen is the most powerful piece: it can move to the front, backward, sideways, or diagonally as much as you want in a straight line. Thirdly, rooks can move as much as they like but only forwards, backward, or sideways. They become especially powerful when the two work together to protect each other. Fourthly, bishops can move as much as they like but only diagonally. Each bishop starts with a square of one colour (either light or dark) and can only travel in that colour at all times. They are good to work with, as they make up for each others’ weaknesses. Next, the knight moves in a completely different way compared to the other pieces – it moves two squares in one direction and one square in a perpendicular direction, forming an “L” shape. It is unique piece on the chessboard that is the only piece that can jump over other pieces. Lastly, Pawns are unusual in that they are normal and grab moves are different: normal moves are forward while grab moves are diagonal. A pawn can only move forward one square at a time but the first movement of each pawn may move two squares. When grabbing, pawns can only grab the opponent’s pieces that are one square diagonally in the front. It can never move or grab backward.

As I learned more about chess, I found an interesting fact that pawns can promote. If a pawn arrives at the other end of the chessboard, it could even become a queen. It is even more fascinating that it is the only piece of chess that can be promoted. Even a weak piece that can only move one square at a time could have hope. Pawns are considered as the most insignificant and weak among the chess pieces. However, as it can be promoted and become the most powerful piece in the game, it should be seen as a valuable piece.

Special Power of Pawns

When I heard of this special power of the pawns, it reminded me of the story of Tanitoluwa Adewumi, an eleven-year-old Nigerian boy living in the United States. His family fled Boko Haram, Nigeria in 2017 and went to the United States to live in a homeless shelter. While living in the shelter, Tani started going to school, and with the help of a teacher who recognized his chess talent, he developed his chess skills and began winning in various competitions. As his story became known, several citizens helped the Tani family to settle in the United States. Tani is studying chess for 7-10 hours every day and is developing his dream of becoming the youngest grandmaster. His family does not stop at receiving help but giving to others in need.

The population of the world is 8,045,311,447 as of 2023, and among them, 51,558,034 live in the Republic of Korea. As one of these people, I think of myself as a pawn on a chessboard. Just like Tani, who is making constant efforts to achieve his dreams, I also dream of infinite promotion, and I aim to become a person who can help those around me.

By: Dameun Lauren Kim

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