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of his country, undertook to make the prince open his eyes upon the fatal effects which his conduct was likely to produce; and sensible his lesson would not prove
of any service, until the prince should himself make the application of it, he invented the game of Chess, where the king, although the most considerable of all the pieces, is impotent both to attack and defend himself against his enemies, without the assistance of his subjects and soldiers.
The new game soon became famous; the King of the Indies heard of it, and would learn it. The Brahmin Nassir was called upon to teach it him, and, under the pretext of explaining the rules of the game, and shewing him the necessity of the other pieces for the king's defence, he made him perceive and relish important truths, which he had hitherto refused to hear. The king, endued naturally with understanding and virtuous sentiments, which even the pernicious maxims of his flatterers and courtiers could not wholly extinguish, was struck with the Brahmin's lessons; and, convinced that in the people's love of their king con
sisted all his strength, he altered his conduct, and prevented the misfortunes that threatened him.
The story adds, that the prince, sensible of the great service rendered him, left to the Brahmin himself the naming of his reward, who desired that the number of grains of corn might be given him the chess-board would produce, reckoning one for the first square, two for the second, four for the third, and so on, doubling always to the sixty-fourth.
The King's astonishment, at the seeming moderation of the demand, was only exceeded by his learning, after he had willingly granted it, that all the treasures of his vast dominions would be insufficient to satisfy it. Then the Brahmin laid hold of this oppornity to give him an additional lesson on the importance it was to kings to be upon
their guard against those who are about them, and how much they ought to be afraid of their ministers abusing their best intentions.
The remarks of Mr. Irwin, on the Chinese story,are ingenious; and, perhaps, it will, in the opinion of most persons, be deemed more probable than the Indian one; I shall only add, that as the latter is said to have arisen some centuries after the former, the Brahmin Nassir may only have copied instead of invented. Others
say, it was invented by two Grecian brothers, named Lydo and Tyrrheno. Who being afflicted with great hunger, in order not to feel it so much, passed their time in playing at this game.
The author of a little book printed in 1685, says, Chess was invented in the year 3635, by a certain wise man named Xerxes, to shew to a tyrant, that majesty and authority, without strength and assistance, without the help of men and subjects, was obnoxious to many calamities; which is, perhaps, only a confusion of the Indian story. The game
of Chess, wherever it arose, was not long confined there, but soon passed into Persia. The Persians looking upon it as a game to be made use of in all countries, to instruct kings at the same time that it amused them, gave it the name of Schertrengi, or Schatrak; the game of schah, or king. And also that of Sedrentz, or Hundred Cares.
Fabricus says, that a celebrated Persian astronomer, named Schatrenscha, was the inventor ; and that from him it derived its
From the Persians it passed to the Arabians, who introduced it into Spain ; and it was brought into England during the reign of William the Conqueror, who was himself a great player, and is said to have lost several lordships in Lincolnshire and elsewhere at it.
The first western authors who have mentioned Chess, are the old French romancers, or the writers of those fabulous histories of the Knights of the Round Table, King Arthur's brave Courtiers, of the Twelve Peers of France, and of the Palatines of the Emperor Charlemagne.
Those who wish to dive more deeply into the origin of Chess, and its connexion with, or deviation from, the most ancient games, may peruse a work, published by Becket, 1801, in quarto, intitled, “ An Inquiry into the ancient Greek Game, supposed to have been invented by Palamedes,” where they will find the subject treated in a masterly manner, and as fully elucidated as the remoteness of its antiquity will permit.
There are few countries at present where it is not known and played.
Mr. Coxe, who was in Russia in 1772, says, “ Chess is so common in Russia, that during our continuance at Moscow, I scarcely entered into any company where parties were not engaged in that diversion ; and I very frequently observed in my passage through the streets, the tradesmen and common people playing it before the doors of their shops or houses. The Russians are esteemed great proficients in Chess. With them the queen has, in addition to the other moves, that of the knight, which, according to Philidor, spoils the game, but which certainly renders it more complicated and difficult, and of course inore interesting. The Russians have also another method of playing at Chess, namely, with four persons at the same time, two against two; and for this
purpose, the board is larger than usual, contains more men, and is provided with a greater number of squares. I was informed that this method was more difficult, but far more agreeable than the common game.”