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Shatranj (Persian: شَطْرَنْج) is an old form of chess, which came to the Western world from India via Sassanid Persia. Modern chess has gradually developed from this game.


Etymology and origins

The word shatranj is derived from the Sanskrit chaturanga (catuḥ="four", anga="arm"). In Middle Persian the word appears as chatrang, with the 'u' lost due to syncope and the 'a' lost to apocope, e.g., in the title of the text Mâdayân î chatrang ("Book of Chess") from the 7th century AD. In Persian folk etymology, the word is sometimes re-bracketed as sad ("hundred") + ranj ("worries"), which might appear quite meaningful to players. The word was adapted into Arabic as shatranj, and then into the Portuguese xadrez, Spanish ajedrez, and Greek ζατρίκιον; but English chess and check come via French échecs (Old French eschecs) from Persian شَاه (shāh = "king").

The game came to Persia from India in the early centuries of the Christian Era. The earliest Persian reference to shatranj is found in the Middle Persian book Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan, which was written between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD. This ancient Persian text refers to Shah Ardashir I, who ruled from 224–241, as a master of the game:[1]

By the help of Providence Ardeshir became more victorious and warlike than all, on the polo and the riding-ground, at Chatrang and Vine-Artakhshir, and in several other arts.

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