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such a check involved in itself nothing extraordinary, any more than a check by a Knight or any other piece or Pawn; in fact, it was the most harmless of checks, and the one most easily evaded.' Had Hyde, however, been at all conversant with the game of which he constituted himself the historian, he would have found that the peculiar check called in Persian Shah-rukh, led to results far more serious than those that attended a mere check by a Rook; and that the player who had the good fortune to make such a coup generally gained, cæteris paribus, a decisive advantage.
The importance of the Shah-rukh will be abundantly obvious when we bear in mind that in the Oriental game the Rook was the most valuable piece on the Board, it being equivalent to a Knight and two Pawns; to two Queens and one Pawn; to two Bishops and three Pawns; or, lastly, to six Pawns. It is evident, then, that when the check Shah-rukh was effected by means of such a small matter as a Pawn2 or a Bishop, the advantage gained in consequence must have led to a victory; and even when the same coup was made by a Knight or Queen, the adversary must have incurred a loss equivalent to two or more Pawns. It is here understood, of course, that the checking piece, or, as we would call it, the forking piece, was not itself liable to be at that moment captured; hence the checked King
1 The check of the Rook could be provided against in three ways:-1. By moving the King; 2. By interposing another piece; and 3. By taking the Rook. With regard to a check from any of the other pieces, or from a Pawn there were but two alternatives, viz., to move the King or take the checking piece, or Pawn, for, from their very nature, a check from any one of these could not be covered.
2 I am inclined to think upon the whole that the term Shāh-rukh was more usually applied to that particular coup by which the Knight forked the King and Rook. When the Queen happened to be the forking piece, the coup was called Farzīn-band, i. e., “ fixed by the Farzin," or Queen. When the Pil or Elephant was the forking piece, it was called Pil-band.
must have moved where he could, and on the next move his Rook was doomed to "fall inglorious" beneath the stroke of the insidious and less noble assailant.
I have only to add, that much nonsense has been written about the term Shah-rukh in some of the Persian Lexicons, as may be seen in Mr. Bland's "Persian Chess." I have been enabled, however, to explain the term here from actual play, not from dictionaries; as it happens to occur, not only in the preceding problem, but in several other instances throughout the various Oriental works which I follow as my authorities. Lexicographers and Encyclopædiasts in general, are not "necessarily over and above well acquainted with every subject whereupon they treat, or pretend to treat. This I could very easily prove from 'modern instances.""
The following problem is highly interesting in several respects. In the first place, it shows us one of those cases in which King and Rook win against King and Knight. In the second place, the mode of play is common alike to medieval Christendom and Paynimrie, as well to our own time. Lastly, it refutes the doctrine of the "Essayists" respecting the restrictions in the King's moves. In parting with the essayists, I feel proud that my views are corroborated by my friend Mr. Staunton, who says, p. 9 of his Chess Praxis-"The moves and power of the Chess King appear to have undergone no change from the earliest times beyond the commutation of his ancient leap into the privilege of the [modern] Castling."
PROBLEM X.—FROM THE OLD ARABIC MS., 7,515, IN THE
1 This problem appeared in the "Chess Player's Chronicle," for June, 1859, In the following month appeared what is called the solution, which, either through the carelessness of the printer, or the want of supervision on the part of the editor, is altogether incorrect and unintelligible.
and thus wins doubly, according to the laws of Medieval Chess. In our modern game it requires three' moves more to give checkmate, the only species of victory to which we are accustomed to submit, thus
9. R. to K. R. 2nd square 10. R. to K. R. square, check
11. R. takes Kt., mate.
9. Anything he pleases 10. Knight interposes.
In the preceding solution it will be seen that Black's main object is to separate the White Knight from his King: hence the latter is in a manner forced to move as he does, so as to keep near his King. The position is well worth the reader's attention, as among the generality of Chess-players it would be called a drawn game; or what comes to the same thing, the player of Black would have failed to give White checkmate within the restricted legal number of fifty moves. As I have already stated, I am not warranted to say that the Orientals tied themselves down, in such cases, to a limited number of moves; still the man who could not here mate in fifty moves, could not, very likely, do it in a hundred.
I now conclude this part of my task, viz., "The Theory and Practice of Medieval Chess in the East;" and as the same system of play prevailed in Western Europe till the beginning of the sixteenth century, I think I may assume the credit of having laid a foundation on which the historian of the royal game among us in the middle ages will be enabled to rear a solid superstructure. Our modern game appears to have originated in Spain, at least the earliest records of it that we possess are found in the works of Vicent and Lucena, about A.D. 1495. An interesting account of the works of these writers is given in the "Chess-player's Chronicle," for 1852. Both of them are now very scarce, especially
that of Vicent,1 and I much regret that I have never been able to get a sight of either. They consist chiefly, I am told, of Chess positions, with their solutions; and it would be interesting to ascertain whether these, or most of them, be not of Arabian origin, also whether some of the problems be not of the medieval sort; which last point could be easily determined by examining such as have a Queen or Bishop engaged in the contest.2
In a German work on Chess (chiefly moralities), by Jacob Mennel, printed at Costentz, A.D. 1507, and afterwards quoted in his great work by Gustavus Selenus, we have seven problems with their solutions, which are decidedly of the medieval kind. One of them has absolutely four Queens,3 together with several other pieces, on one side of the board; and the conditions of the solution are that, he who has the four Queens, &c., is to checkmate with a Rook on the fifth move. We see, then, that a few years previous to A.D. 1500, the modern game began to appear in Spain, supposing always that
1 Vicent's treatise is so very rare that I believe it has never been seen by any person now living.
2 This point I am now able to decide from Mr. Staunton's "Chess Praxis." In page 10 of that valuable work, Mr. S., in speaking of the Queen, states"The exact period when she, in common with the Bishop, acquired additional power, has yet to be discovered; but from the circumstance that Lucena, whose work was published in 1495, recommends the student to learn both the old game (viego), and the new (la dama)—that one-half of his problems are constructed on the principles of the old game," &c.
3 Sarratt, who assuredly was no Solomon in Chess literature, is pleased to take Jacob Mennel to book. In his preface to what he calls his "Translation of Gustavus Silenus," he, speaking of the seven problems above alluded to, says, "among these there is one as remarkable as it is ridiculous, extracted from a work (deservedly consigned to oblivion) written in German verse by James Mennels, and published at Costentz, 1507. Mennels has favoured the world with many situations in which mate is effected by a Pawn; some of these present a ludicrous appearance; one party having six and sometimes seven Queens; but it must be observed that this same Mennels has deemed it meet to deprive the Queen of her horizontal and perpendicular powers, &c." Now the ignorance, inaccuracy, and carelessness, displayed in the above morceau, simply deserve our pity; they are altogether beneath contempt.