At Masters Traditional Games, we always aim for excellent quality but we also like to find games that are a bit special or unusual too. With Chess, it is particularly easy to go and buy any old Chess set from a mundane high-street shop. Why do that, when we can find you something a lot more interesting?
The ancestry of Chess is hidden in a mist of uncertainty and scholars continue to argue over significant issues, not least of which whether the traditional viewpoint of an origin in India is right or whether the game came first from China. Some historical sleuths believe that shaturanga sometimes spelt chaturanga was the originating game. This is supposed to have been invented by an Indian philosopher in the 6th century. The game was in part quite different to modern Chess in that dice were used and it was a 4 sided game instead of 2. The four players controlled 4 types of piece - Infantry, Cavalry, Elephants and Boatmen under the command of a controled squadrons of a Rajah or Caliph. An Ashtapada board (an ancient Indian race board game) consisting of an 8 x 8 grid was used for this early type of Chess.
Gambling was banned at some later point in the Hindu civilisation and, as happened in similar situations in other countries, this caused an evolution in the games that people played. In the case of Shaturanga, the dice were eliminated and so perhaps it was at this point that a game based entirely on intellectual acuity came into being. Around the same time, the 4 sides that anyway often played as 2 sets of 2 allies, were merged into 2 opposing armies. The new game was called Shatranj and anyone in modern times would recognise this early game as a proto-version of modern day Chess.
There are multiple explanations for the early arrival of Shatranj in Western Europe. Some say that it came through Spain brought by the Saracens of the Byzantine empire, some says crusaders returning from the Middle East brought back this early Chess. Regardless, the game of Shatranj emerged fully formed from India and evolved into a number of different forms that are just as important historically as Western European Chess including Shogi in Japan, Xiang Qi in China, Makruk in Thailand, Sittuyin in Burma and Changgi from Korea.