Saturday, June 21, 2008

Anand on the Indian Origins of Chess


"The March of Chess" from India

In a Time Magazine essay titled "The Indian Defense," reigning world chess champion Viswanathan Anand writes about how the origins of the game helped him to feel entitled to pursue the crown:
In 1991, at my first international tournament, in Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, a Russian grandmaster condescendingly told me I could at best be a coffee-house player because I had not been tutored in the Soviet school of chess, which then dominated the sport. With the arrogance of youth — I was 21 — I thought to myself, "But didn't we Indians invent chess? Why shouldn't I have my own route to the top of the sport?"  

It would take me 17 years to find that route, and along the way I've had hundreds of conversations about the origins of chess — with players, fans, officials, taxi drivers, barbers and who knows how many people who sat next to me on a plane.  I've heard the ownership of chess being claimed by Russians, Chinese, Ukrainians, Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Spaniards and Greeks. My own view is that the sport belongs to everybody who plays it, but the question of its origins is easy enough to answer: chess comes from India.
An interesting personal reflection and worth a look.  Hat tip: ChessBase News.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does the "Indian" in all the Indian defenses come from India or is it after American Indians?

For some reason, I always thought it was after American Indians in reference to their battle tactics.

Tom Chivers said...

I wonder who the Russian GM was, and where he is now?

Michael Goeller said...

I remember reading (probably in some lore book by Reinfeld or Chernev) that Indian Defense does refer to India and is meant to suggest something unusual and interesting, like an imported Indian spice or cloth. I will look around to see if I can confirm that (online searches were not helpful).

As for the nameless Russian in the article: no doubt he is driving a taxi cab somewhere....