Chess in early literature

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One of the most common ways for chess historians to trace when the board game chess entered a country is to look at the literature of that country. Although due to the names associated with chess sometimes being used for more than one game (for instance Xiang-qi in China and Tables in England), the only certain reference to chess is often several hundred years later than uncertain earlier references. The following list contains the earliest references to chess or chess-like games.



a. 923 - at-Tabari's Kitab akhbar ar-rusul wal-muluk (note the work is an Arabic work, no early Greek works are known)


79 BC - 8 BC - lifetime of Liu Xiang 劉 向, who wrote Shuo yuan, a compilation of early Confucian anecdotes: "Do you still feel like playing Xiangqi and dancing?" However, "Xiangqi", apart from being the name of the chess variant played in China, has also been the name of two other unrelated games. (Sources: Meng Changjun Played Xiangqi and Danced with Lady Zheng, The History of Xiangqi and 7. Reference Guide to Classical Book Titles: (3) Sinological Indexes: Other Indices: Shuo yuan.)

c. 900 AD - Huan Kwai Lu ('Book of Marvels') Describes the rules of Xiangqi.


c. 1180 - Alexander Neckam's De Natura Rerum (note that it is thought that Neckam may have learnt of chess in Italy, not in England)


a. 1127 - A song of Guilhem IX Count of Poitiers and Duke of Aquitaine.


c. 1070 - Ruodlieb (IV 184-188) thought to be written by a monk near Tegernsee.

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