One of the most popular games is chess. About 8% of the world's population plays it regularly, according to the United Nations.

Chess has survived the test of time even after a few years on the shelf. The game got a boost from the 2020 series "The Queen's Gambit," with 62 million accounts watching the show within its first four weeks. eBay saw a big increase in chess set sales after the show was released.

Chess has been around for a long time than any other game. Where did the game come from and how old is it?

Where did chess originate?

Given the game's age, it's hard to know the exact origins of chess. Historians think the game originated in India, even though there is no one person who can be credited with creating the game.

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Kenneth W. Regan is an international chess master and an associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University at Buffalo in New York.

The modern word'shatranj' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'chaturanga'. The root of Latin 'quattuor' is 'chatur,' which means four, plus'anga,' which means limbs.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the four members of the army are elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers. According to Chess Central, the earliest known chess iteration contained chariot and elephant pieces. The rook and bishop took over the roles.

A cartoon image of the different chess pieces.

The modern chess pieces include the king, queen, bishop, rook, pawn and knight. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While a single individual can't be named as chess' inventor, an ancient legend (opens in new tab) — an old fable that is not to be taken literally — names Grand Vizier Sissa Ben Dahir as the game's originator. According to the story, he gifted the first chessboard to King Shirham of India, but given the earliest written reference of this tale is from 1256, it is highly likely to not only be apocryphal, but to have no basis in reality.

However, not all historians agree that chess originated in India. In a 1996 essay (opens in new tab), Spanish chess player and historian Ricardo Calvo (who died in 2002) wrote that "most certainly it was invented in Iran," a conclusion reached largely on the basis that ancient Persian literature mentions chess prior to it ever being mentioned in Indian literature. The general consensus, however, remains that the game was invented in India; indeed, supporters of the Persian origin story tend to be from Iran, and so may not be entirely impartial.

When was chess invented?

"There is no credible evidence that chess existed in a form approaching the modern game before the 6th century," according to Britannica (opens in new tab).

Since that time, the game has evolved, with different cultures introducing both minor and major changes over the centuries.

Some versions of chess were better than others, and all major regional cultures had their own. He said the games on the board were slow. Many games ended as a draw because the pieces weren't as flexible as they are now.

In time, however, chess became more standardized. Regan highlighted the influence of 15th-century mathematician Luca Pacioli, who wrote "De ludo schacorum" ("On the game of chess"). The manuscript, which also became known as "Schifanoia" ("Boredom Dodger"), quickly established itself as something of a chess bible, essentially codifying a game that had, until that point, been subject to a host of regional variances. "He was an important popularizer," Regan said.

So, why has chess remained popular for so long, and why is it more widely played than other ancient games, such as Go, which is considered the world's oldest board game and has around 60 million regular players (opens in new tab) — one-tenth the number of chess players?

The game of chess can be enjoyed at many levels of competence. A gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe in chess. It's harder to play go than it is to play chess. Go is a more difficult game. After playing a game of Go, my head hurts, but it doesn't hurt with chess.

The original article was published on Live Science on January 22, 2012