Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chess History and the Hebrew Language

Credit: wikipedia

It is now well known, and accepted by almost all authorities, that chess originated in India ca. 600 AD. This was not the case in the 19th century, when the invention of chess was attributed to numerous other ancients, legendary or real, such as Achilles, King Solomon, etc.

One of the first mentions of chess in a Jewish newspaper was in The Occidentthe American Jewish newspaper, on Oct. 18th, 1860, pp. 4-5, reprinting an article from the Chess Player's Chronicle, by the Jewish player, Aaron Alexandre, who was a strong player (winning a match against Staunton in 1838) and chess historian. The letter claims that chess was invented, perhaps, by Moses, and that 2 Samuel ii. 14 is, based on the original Hebrew, was really the settlement of a political dispute by a game of chess, much like the old Indian legend about chess being invented as a replacement for actual war.

Alexandre's interpretation is ingenious, linguistically speaking, but quite forced, and in any case not accepted by most people. But it is probably the first time in the modern era a Jewish player tried to argue for a specific origin of the game -- naturally attributing it to the Jews.


For some reason I cannot link to the article itself, it's possible however to search the newspaper in the link with the details provided.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Avital,

    The link to The Occident just sends us to the main search page, not to the article itself.