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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2016-05-03
 Author: Fergus  Duniho. Chaturanga. The first known variant of chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Jason L. wrote on 2011-02-05 UTC
It's widely assumed by Western scholars that Indian chess was the first form of chess, but it is also widely assumed that Asian forms of chess were derived from it although there is no direct evidence of it other than the fact that the pieces move in a similar fashion. But what if there are historical documents or artifacts in China that suggest that Xiangqi has been around since 2nd century B.C.? What if the similarities between the early Indian version and Xiangqi were the result of influence from the other way around? Just because European scholars had no access to Chinese documents but did with Indian archives, that does not mean it can be assumed that the first game was from India. It seems since China was not a part of the British empire, then its archives can be ignored and only regions of the world which are a part of Britain's sphere of influence can be deemed as inventing anything. I have not done the research myself, but it is generally considered by chess historians with access to Chinese archives that Xiangqi came much earlier than the Indian version, so no scholar who can read Chinese would think that the Indian version came first. This does not prove that the Indian version came from China, but the similarities in the boards would suggest that one is taken from the other but with a different board. The 8x8 chess board used for the India/Western version is simply the 9x10 board for Xiangqi with the river removed. This removes a row, and results in an 8x8 board if you play in the squares and not on the intersection points. Therefore, in a way, the 2 boards are almost the same board. What can be objectively pointed out is that the pieces for Xiangqi move in a way that fit its board that has survived up to its modern form while the moves for the counselor/Queen and elephant/bishop do not fit the gameplay of the 8x8 board. That's why the pieces were logically improved or adapted to fit the gameplay of an 8x8 board later on. If we assume that one game influenced the other and was the first version of it known to man, then it is more reasonable to assume things went from China to India based on the fact that the 9x10 board actually fits that movement and the 8x8 board does not suggesting the initial movement of those pieces was borrowed and does not fit the 8x8 board. Also if one assumes it went from India to China, it is unlikely that pieces would become more restricted. This is a misnomer. The main reason why the pieces can jump over pieces in the Indian version is because the board is smaller and the pawns are right in front of the horse/knight and elephant/bishop requiring the rules to be adapted so they could move right away rather being blocked right off the bat. Western researchers conclude that pieces become more restricted when going East and more free when moving West. But does that really make any logical sense? Are our cultures so different that Asians like to restrict, and Indians, Persians, and Europeans like to make things more free? That makes it sound like Westerners or countries colonized and/or influenced by the West like to make things better while the people in the Far East like to make things 'worse'. It's more reasonable just to look at the different boards and notice that a major difference between the 9x10 board and 8x8 board (other than the size difference) is that the pawns are not blocking the main pieces in the 9x10 board so the pieces can move right away. The fact that the knight and elephant can be blocked in Xiangqi is reminiscent of Weiqi where the 2 sides are 'blocking' each other from going to further territory albeit with stones rather than pieces. How come no Westerner or scientist has noticed the similarities between Weiqi and Xiangqi? Also, let's not forget the bigger picture in terms of board games in China. If Weiqi was first recorded in the 4th century B.C. and now there are claims that Xiangqi was first played in 2nd century B.C. and has similarities in the blocking concept, why is that so hard to believe for Western Chess historians? Because it has already been stated and stressed in European literature that Chaturanga was the first game, so why would an entire continent of people want to revise their thinking and basically admit that they did not consider an entire region's documents simply because that would be tantamount to admitting either ignorance or basically a condescending attitude towards 'yellow people' who could not have possibly invented anything first. So 2nd century B.C. is not that much of a stretch for board games in China. Actually, the origin of chess in China makes a lot more sense because the cannon was not added until much later when that kind of technology was invented, so that's a more probable reason why the cannon has no corresponding piece in Indian/Western chess. A version without the cannon was brought over earlier before it was recorded in India first. And its the version with the cannon that seems to have been brought over to Korea and Japan. i.e. It went to those regions later on. Why does the origin of those games have to be from India also when they resemble the modern Chinese game more than the original Indian game? It goes back to the original assumption that not enough Western writers/scientists or whatever you want to call a person with a right to have an authority on this subject, said that India was first and that is the end of the conversation. One would think that if there was a different version of Go that is widely played in Europe and India, Western scholars would also insist the origin was India by only looking at Indian documents that support their thesis without bothering to look at any records in Chinese. So when the Chinese come forward with so called records, they are refuted by European chess historians as being inaccurate! So Europeans also know Chinese history better than Chinese people. Well, that is something I had not thought could happen. Or is it just Western arrogance as we have all become accustomed to in this world? In no way, am I attacking this website or anyone in particular. I am just frustrated with why even things that can be viewed objectively, are not being viewed objectively like the awkward movement of certain pieces in the Indian version and fluid movements of those same pieces in Xiangqi. That is an objective observation anyone could make but instead other theories that do not seem reasonable are put forward without the converse ever being considered. If the question is which chess game was first and therefore could have been the father of all others, then shouldn't archives and other related evidence from all over the world be considered before declaring any one country or region as the first game?