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Rediscovering the quirks, challenges of chess
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Forsyth County News

I learned to play chess at a fairly young age. I was never very good at the game and, in fact, I’m not sure I ever won.

I didn’t play all that often, but did so occasionally with my oldest brother or dad, both of whom were math oriented and great at the game.

I wanted to be good at chess — remember how the smart kids always played chess?  — but was relieved when I discovered Backgammon, which doesn’t require nearly the brain power chess does.

When our children were young, I wanted them to learn to play chess. Paul was in charge of that as I crossed my fingers none of them inherited my lack of ability.

Did you know chess likely originated in northern India in the 6th century A.D.? The game spread to Persia and finally to Europe.

Some historians insist it was invented in China by a military commander whose game represented a particular battle. Regardless, chess was around for centuries before making it to Europe, where it underwent changes to become what we know today. Those changes started in the 15th century.

In the second half of the 19th century, the First World Chess Championship was held. In 1913, H.J.R. Murray penned a massive 900-page book called A History of Chess, considered the authority on the subject.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the evolution of the game of chess is how the queen came to be not only on the board, but also have so much power.

The ancient chess game was called Shatranj. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was not a “queen” or female chess piece since the game was based on a battlefield.

Even in the ancient game, there were pieces similar to what we now call the rook, knight, bishop and pawns.

The rise of the queen came about in the 15th century. Wonder why?

In the book, “Birth of the Chess Queen,” author Marilyn Yalom explores this phenomenon and concludes it had to do with the rise of so many female monarchs throughout Europe. Think Elizabeth I, Catherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor, to name just a few.

In fact, as the game changed and the queen was added, the people of Europe loved her newfound power, as she was able to move in all directions as much as she wanted.

The other day, I was rummaging through things on the shelf underneath the coffee table. There were some gardening books, a few children’s books, some old magazines and, yes, a chess board. I was quite surprised to see all of the pieces were there.

We went through countless chess/checker sets over the years since our children always lost the pieces (or perhaps a dog may have been responsible). 

Paul suggested we play, and even gave me a tutorial with some strategy advice. Despite his help, I still lost. I did, however, enjoy it.

There is so much to the game. All of that constantly thinking ahead and trying to predict the other player’s strategy does not come naturally to me.

I have read how good for our (aging) brains it is to play games such as chess. I’m going to continue trying to hone my skills, but do think I’m going to go get a backgammon game too.

Just curious — are any readers out there chess players? How about children or grandchildren?

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please email me.


Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at