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ON THE GAME OF CHESS IN EUROPE DURING THE
The names of the Chess-men during this early period, were the Rey, Reyne, Fers or Ferce, Alfyn or Auphin, Chivalier, Roc or Rok, and Poun, answering to our King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook and Pawn: these pieces are mentioned in the poem of La Vieille (a MS. in the Royal Library at Paris, quoted in a Memoir on Chess drawn up by M. Freret in 1729):
En deux parts veoir y pourrés
Fierge et Peon. The barons and their rich feudatories spared no expense in having them composed of the most rare and costly materials : thus we read of one set made of jasper and crystalt; of another set formed of precious stones and gold 1 ; of a third set of Chess-men whose Reys, Ferces, Chivaliers, Rocs, and Alfyns, were carved from or molu, sapphires, and topazes, and their Pouns from emeralds and rubies. In the romance of " Alisaundre," there is a description of a splendid set of Chess-men, which are stated to be the workmanship of pilgrims :
The Ches of saphires ware y-wys,
And of topaze that richest is:
Weber's Met. Rom. I. 1, p. lxrxi. The Chess-men generally used were of ivoryll of various colours, either red and black, white and black, or red and green. The Chess. boards (eschequier) were no less splendid : those played on by the nobility were inlaid sometimes with jasper and crystal, and the rim of the board of fine gold ; sometimes with silver and golds, and some
* Continued from vol. iv. page 502.
+ “ Item unum scacarium de jaspide et chalsidonio, cum familia, videlicet una parte de jaspide, et alia parte de cristallo."-Le Roman de Parise la Duchesse. MS.
“ Ubi pro Reverentia B. Martyris plurima reliquit insignia, scilicet scachos crystallinos, et lapides pretiosos, et auri plurimum."-Hist. Translat. S. Stremonii in actis SS. Benedictin, Seculo 3.
§ Li Eschequier est tiel, onques miendre ne fu :
Les lices sont d'or fin à trifoire fondu ;
Ex Poem. Aler. MS. part 2. 11 In the account of the wardrobe of Edward I. published by the Society of Antiquaries, are the following items :
Una familia pro scaccario de jaspide et cristallo, in uno coffro.
Una familia de Elore pro ludendo ad scaccarium. In the romance of St. Graal are these words :-" Puis voit l’Eschiquier et les Eschets assis au Tablier d'or, les vns d'yvoire, les autres d'or.”.
I “A vn Scacchier d'or et d'argent jue o suen cheualier."-Roman de la guerre de Troye. MS.
times with emeralds and rubies.* The tinctures of the squares on those boards that were most frequently used, were white and yellow, white and red, and white and black; it is needless to add (after the perusal of the preceding Romances) that these Chess-boards were com. posed of exceedingly massive materials. I will now describe the powers of the various pieces :
§ I. The Rey. The common Oriental name given to this piece was xlu Shah, equivalent to our European word Rey or King ; and it is from this piece that the game derives its name. The original movement of the Rey appears to have been extremely confined, he being incapacitated from moving, except driven to the necessity of extricating himself from an adverse Check: this may in some measure be accounted for by reflecting, that as the value of the Rey at this game is beyond calculation (since the instant he is mated the contest is decided), they were therefore the less willing to risk his person in the field. About the commencement of the thirteenth century the Rey had the move of our present King, with a restriction, that he could neither move nor take angularly, but always directly, and the reason of this prohibition (from the taste that predominated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of moralizing almost every subject) seems to have been, that the King ought to take every thing justly. This restriction, however, in a very short period was taken away, and the Rey had the power of moving and taking as well angularly as directly; but his range of action never extended beyond one square.
* In the romance of “ Alisaundre" mentioned before, is the following description of a superb chess-board :
The leifis of gold war fare and fyne,
Subtyll wrought with ane engyne,
And of rubies brenand as fyre. + An ancient Hebrew treatise on the game entitled “ Deliciæ Regis,” expressly states that,
הַמֶּלֶךְ הָרִאשׁוֹן בְּמַעֲלָה וּגְדְלָה וּבְלְשׁוֹן פַּרְסִי מְבָנֶה שָׁה וְעַד שְׁמוֹ נִקְרָא הַצְחוֹק שָׁה דֶרֶךְ עַלוּי וְשֶׁבַח:
? i. e. The King is first in excellence and dignity, and in the Persian language is called Shah ; and from his name this game for the sake of ercellence and dignity is called Shah.
Our ancestors were constantly representing the game of Chess as a picture of human life: the Morality of Pope Innocent thus commences,--"Mundus iste totus est quasi quoddam scaccarium, cujus punctus unus est albus, alius niger, propter duplicem statum vitæ et mortis, gratiæ et culpæ. Familia hujus scaccarii sunt homines hujus mundi, qui omnes de uno sarculo extrahuntur et in diversis hujus mundi collocantur; et singuli habent diversa nomina-unus dicitur Rex, alter Regina, 3 Rochus, 4 Miles, 5 Alphinus, 6 Pedinus. Istius autem ludi conditio talis est, ut unus alios capiat; et cùm ludum compleverunt, sicut de uno sarculo exierunt, sic in uno loco iterum reponuntur," &c.-MS. Sloan. 4029, among a variety of tales, has likewise a Morality on Chess, which begins in these words ;—“Scaccarium habet octo puncta in omni parte; sic in ludo mundi sunt octo genera hominum, Wyldhede, Wykkydhede, Clerici, Laici, Divites et Pauperes,” &c. It then proceeds to describe the moves of the Chess-men.
The move of the Rey is thus given in various MSS.-In MS. Bibl. Reg. 12 E xxi.
$ II. The Ferce. The name of this piece is alone sufficient to confirm the idea of Chess being of Eastern origin, Fers, Ferce, Fierce or Fierge, (as it is variously spelt in Manuscripts) is derived from the Persian ; Pherz, which signifies a wise and learned man capable of giving counsel to the xha Shih: Dr. Hyde also remarks that “ Cum Hieremiam Sacerdotem Græcum Scachos mihi recitantem percontarer, qualis esset Pherz, ille respondebat, 'EmíOXOTOS Tov Baoiléws, Commissionarius regis, Procurator ejus, et Negotiorum ipsius Curator," and immediately subjoins that " ejusmodi Viros prudentiâ et sapientiâ insignes secum habere solebant Persarum reges, quibus res suas gerendas credebant." On the introduction of Chess into Europe, this word Ferce was by an
Ante retroq' ferit hostes et sterner' quærit,
Cetera turba iacet nec habet q° rege rega'te. “ In isto ludo rex vadit circu'quaq' directe et capit vndiq' semp' directe in sig numq' rex o’ia iuste capit' et in nullo omissa iusticia o'ibus exhibe'da o'bliq'r' (obliquare) debet; sed modo quicquid rex agit iusticia reputat: quia qu'q' p’ncipi placet iuris habet vigorem."— Moralitas Innocentii Papæ.
A Latin Poem on this game among the M5S, in the Bodleian Library, confirms the belief of the passive power of the Rey unless driven from his square by an adverse check.
Contra ipsum non audebit, nisi Scachum dicere.
Si non habet ubi pergat. Scacha-mattum audiat.
וְזֶהַר בְּעֵת שִׁבְתּוֹ וְצָאתּוֹ לְהִלָּחֵם וּבִמְקוֹם תַּחֲנוּתוֹ וְאִם אוֹיְבוֹ בְאֵימָה יַעֲלֶה לוֹ וְיִגְעַר בּוֹ וְיִבְרַח מִמְקוֹמוֹ
to which I subjoin Dr. Hyde's version,
Et cantus est (Rer) tempore sedendi et exeundi
Rabbi Aben Jachia, in his elegant ping my nap Oratio super Scac
chum likewise recommends the Rey to remain inactive during the contest.
הַמֶּלֶךְ לָלֶכֶת מִבַּיִת לְבֵית מֶמְשַׁלְתּוֹ אַחַת הִיא רָתוֹ בֵין בְּאֲלָכְסוֹן בֵּין יָשָׁר בְּמְרוּצָה כֹּל אֲשֶׁר חָפֵץ עָשָׂה וְלֹא יָרוֹס לְבָבוֹ לְהַרְחִיב צְעָרָין בְּמִלְחָמָה פֶן יָמוּת בַּמִּלְחָמָה : i
Rex quidem incedendo à domo in domum in dominio suo unicam legem habet, ut tam obliquè quam rectè in cursu suo, faciat omnia quæ lubet. At non debet exaltari cor ejus ad dilatandum gressus suos in bello, ne forte in bello moriatur.” But the “ Deliciæ Regis" is still more explicit, and expressly states that the Rey is not to move from his square unless compelled by necessity; the words of the original are :
וְאֵינוֹ מַפֶּתַח בֵּיתוֹ בְכָל־עֵת רַק אִם הַשָׁעָה צְרִיכָה לְכַךְ
easy mutation corrupted into Vierge a Virgin, and afterwards into Reyne a Queen, though the old term of Ferce still continued to be used and still retained its originally limited movements, until this restraint (according to the opinion of M. Freret, whom I have already quoted,) was probably considered by our ancestors as a slavery more consonant to the jealous policy of the East than to the liberty which European females enjoy; they therefore extended the steps and prerogatives of this piece, and with a gallantry natural to an age of chivalry and politeness, permitted the lady to become at last the most considerable piece in the game. The substitution of a female at this game in the room of the Vizier of the Orientals has been thus ingeniously explained :-“ Men were soon persuaded that the picture of human life, under which they represented Chess, would be very imperfect without a woman; that sex plays too important a part not to have a place in the game: and hence they changed the Minister into a Queen, the similarity of the words Fierge and Vierge facilitating the change.” During this century the Ferce could move only one square at a time, and that angularly, and never directly : thus the old romance of “ La Vieille,"
“ Le Roy, la Fierge, et le Peon, saillent vn point,” so that we may consider the Ferce as having been the least considerable of the Chess-picces.*
$ II. The Alfyn. The Eastern name given to this piece was Phil an Elephant. Jacobus de Cesolis calls it Alphilus, but the Italians having corrupted the word Alfil into Alfinus, or Alfin, the latter became the most usual appellation and produced the Alfin, Aufyn, and Auphin, used indifferently in ancient Chess MSS. The French, ignorant of the true meaning of the Eastern term Phil, have substituted Fol, somewhat similar in sound, but of a very different signification. +
nec incedit à porta domus suæ quovis tempore, nisi bora necessitatis ad hoc."
* Innocent in the “ Moralitas," is not very complimentary to this piece : “Regina quæ dicitur fers vadit et capit obliqnè; quia tam avarissimum sit genus mulierum, quodcunque capitur nisi meritò detur ex gratia rapina est et injusticia." Lydgate, in a Poem on Chess, quoted by Dr. Hyde, makes mention of this piece :
To all olhos vertuouse,
into a corner drive and maa, &c. + Dr. Hyde makes the following observation on the substitution of a Queen and Bishop into the game, instead of the Counsellor and Elephant of the Oriental players:~" Qui autem Reginam et Episcopum in hunc ludum introduxerunt, fortè opinati sunt eum esse repræsentationem Curiæ regalis, dum quod verè eo designatum est ignorarint; non attendentes eum natum fuisse apud Indos, qui non habent Episcopos ; vel si haberent eos, tamen bello interesse non posse ; nec advertentes quàm absurdum sit in hujus ludi progressu, ex gregario milite fieri Reginam, quasi ex viro fieri possit fæmina : cùin potius quodvis fictitium debeat esse imitatio veri.” Thomæ Hyde Shahiludium ; Oxon. 1694, 12mo. p. 77. M. Freret (in his Memoir
In the thirteenth century the Alfyn had the diagonal move of our Bishop, restricted in its range of action to the third square from which it stood ; or, to express myself more clearly, it was necessary that it should be distant from the adverse piece one clear square : thus, suppose a white Alfyn be on the 4th square of his Rey, he could then capture any Pawn or piece standing 1. on the adverse Rey's Chivalier's third square; 2. Reyne's Alfyn's third square ; 3. his own Rey's Chivalier's second square; and 4. his Reyne's Alfyn's second square. But, as he was always incapacitated from moving to a greater or less number of squares, no piece could be either captured or considered en prise, if situated close to it, or removed at a greater distance than the third square. As a compensation for so confined an action on the board, the Alfyn had a very singular peculiarity bestowed on it: in capturing, it possessed the vaulting power of the Chivalier. Thus, if a white Alfyn be on his Rey's 4th square, a black or white Rok on the adverse Reyne's 4th square, and a black Poun on his Reyne's Alfyn's 3d square, the white Alfyn (in this or any similar situation) could capture the black Poun, notwithstanding the interposition of the Rok: but the subsequent extension of its range of action deprived him, in the course of time, of this vaulting motion.*
sur l'Origine du Jeu des Echecs) comments very justly on the absurdity complained of by Dr. Hyde. The arguments he makes use of are—that if the Ferz or Fierge be a Vizier, a minister of state, or a general, we may easily conceive how a Pawn, or common soldier, may be promoted to that rank, as a recompense for his valour in having pierced through the enemy's battalions. But, if the Fierge be a lady, the Queen, or the King's wife, by what strange metamorphosis does the Pawn change his sex, ana, from a soldier, turn into a woman and marry the King in reward of his valour? This sole absurdity proves that the second picce at Chess has been improperly named Virgin or Queen. The ancient writers on the game, to get rid of this anomaly, endeavour to insinuate that such Pawns as are made Ferces, were always females; but they explain this in so awkward and unsatisfactory a manner, that the point is left precisely where it is taken up. Thus, in the 5th Game (Le Guy des Damoyseles) of the Chess MS. Bibl. Reg. 13 A. XVIII, the following lines
Les damoiseles me ynt requis.
The damsels have requested me, Ke lour guy ne seýt oblis.
That their game should not be forgotten, E pur lamour qe a eus ay.
And for the love that I bear to them, Lour guy en ceste esc't mettray.
I have in this book set down their game. Seýgnoures li pou' ces mest auys. Lordings, the Pawns, this is my advice, Signefient meschines de pris.
Signify ladies of price (value);
For Queens made from Pawns,
For if the Pawns were males,
Then they could not be females. And the writer, after a few lines, concludes,
E pur ceo ke ceste guy est ou pou'. And because this is a game with Pawns, Le guy de damoiseles appellom. The Game of DAMSELS we call it.
* In Aben Ezra's excellent little Poem on Chess, the moves of the Allyn are thus explained :
וְהַפִיל בַּקְרָב הוֹלֵךְ וְקָרֵב וְהוּא נְדָב עֲלֵי הַצר אוֹרֵב כְּמוֹ פֶרֶז הֵלִיכָּתוֹ אֲבָל יֵשׁ לְזֶה יִתְרוֹן לְמָה שֶׁהוּא מְשְׁלָשׁ