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of Chess was in high favour. In the Persian manuscript of the British Museum there is an anecdote related of Walid, the seventh of this dynasty, who began his reign in A.D. 705, which is somewhat characteristic of the olden times. "The caliph used to play Chess with one of his courtiers who was a much stronger player than himself, and who purposely made bad moves in order to let his sovereign' gain the victory. One day, the caliph observed this, and, being highly offended, he seized one of the heaviest of the pieces and hurled the same at the courtier's head, saying, May evil befal thee, base sycophant ! Art thou in thy senses to play Chess with me in this foolish manner?" We We may observe by the way, that this same head-breaking appears to have been a favourite move in days of yore, both among Muslims and Christians. I believe it is very rarely adopted in modern times, it being considered what the insurance-office would call "doubly hazardous." I think this is the earliest, and I may add the most excusable, instance of it on record.2
1 The Asiatics, generally speaking, are very servile towards their superiors particularly when the latter happen to have crowned heads on their shoulders, or hold high offices in the State. It is related of the Brahman TravangadAcharya-Shastri, of Bombay, who published a small work on the Hindustani game, 1814, that he was never beaten at Chess but once, and that was by a European lady. It is very probable that the Brahman's play resembled that of other courtiers, but with better luck, for the loss of the game secured him a lucrative contract for the supply of the army with provisions. A distinguished pupil of mine, who for several years held a civil and political situation in the Bombay Presidency, told me many years ago when he was home on furlough, that he found it very difficult to induce the natives, some of whom were excellent players, to exert their whole strength against him. They deemed it the height of presumption to win a game of the "Barā Sāhib Bahādur," (the eminent and honourable gentleman), till at last he agreed to give them a gold mohur (about a guinea and a half) for every game they won of him, he himself exacting nothing for such games as they lost. This sure enough had the desired effect, and he very soon found that his Chess play on such terms was becoming rather an expensive amusement.
2 There is a similar anecdote told of the Fingalian hero Cuchullin, which, if true, would have been of a still earlier date, say A.D. 200 to A.D. 400, without being particular to a century or so.-Vide Appendix D.
The reader will find ample references to anecdotes of this kind in Sir Frederic Madden's Dissertation, of which more hereafter; also in the volumes of Twiss passim.
Within less than a century after the death of Muhammad, the Arabs, or, as they are commonly styled, the Saracens, had extended their conquests to the eastward as far as the Indus, and to the westward as far as the shores of the Atlantic, from Fez in Africa to the mouth of the Loire in France. Conquest and the acquisition of wealth introduced among them luxury and a taste for all the refinements of life. Under the munificent patronage of the 'Abbaside Caliphs, many of the arts and sciences advanced to a degree of perfection till then unknown in the world. From the Hindus the Arabs obtained the decimal system of arithmetic,' so vastly superior to the clumsy modes of enumeration previously in vogue: modes through which any advancement in pure science was utterly impossible. From the same quarter they obtained a knowledge of the elements of algebra and the simpler principles of trigonometry, which acquisitions they cultivated with the keenest ardour. Astronomy, geometry, medicine, logic, and metaphysics, they had
1 In the volume on Egypt in the "Edinburgh Cabinet Library,” we have (p. 206) the following statement :-"There can be little doubt that it was to Egypt the Saracens were indebted for the scheme of arithmetical notation, which they subsequently communicated to the scholars of Europe." All this is untrue. The Arabs themselves, without exception, assert that they had it from the Hindus. The Egyptian scheme was merely a shade less cumbersome than that of the Greeks and Romans, by the author's own showing. For instance, "to express 1831 required no fewer than thirteen figures." The beautiful, we may say miraculous principle of the decimal scale invented by the Hindus was utterly unknown to the Egyptians. I should like to see the Egyptians, the Greeks, or the Romans calculate and express in their figures, the amount of dinars that resulted from the duplication of the successive squares of the Chess-board stated in our seventh chapter. Still more hopeless a task would it have proved to them, to extract the cube root of that long number of twenty figures, a feat which our schoolboys think little of, and which, I believe, the eminent mathematician and divine, Isaac Barrow, once performed mentally, as he reclined on a sofa.
from the Greeks; but in all of these branches they made considerable improvements of their own; and to these same Arabs modern Europe was, soon after, indebted for the first rays of her enlightenment from the dark cloud of barbarism, ignorance, and superstition, under which she had lain prostrate for several centuries.
During the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries of our era, the game of Chess had attained a high degree of perfection at the courts of the eastern Caliphs, and elsewhere among the Saracenic people. Abul-'Abbas, a physician of Bagdad, who died A.D. 899, is the earliest Arabian writer on Chess of whom we have any account. Immediately after him came the far-famed Al Suli, who may be justly styled the Arabian Philidor. He was by far the first player of his time, so that his name has become proverbial to this day. Like Philidor, he excelled in playing without seeing the board, and against several adversaries at the same time. He also wrote a treatise on the theory and practice of the game. His work, as well as that of Abul-'Abbās, is now, in all probability, lost; but it is frequently cited as an authority by later Arabian writers.' Al Sūlī died in the city of Basra about A.D. 946. So great is his fame among the Arabs, that the unlearned among them will have it, that he must himself have been the inventor of Chess. They maintain, by a certain show of reason, that no man but the inventor of the game could have so excelled in its practice; and the highest compliment they can pay to any eminent player is, that he is a second Sutr.
Another celebrated master of the art, about, or a little before, this period, was 'Adali al Rūmi. From the latter
1 Numerous and copious extracts from the works both of Suli and 'Adalī are given in Dr. Lee's two MSS., of which I have been unable to obtain a perusal, for reasons given in our eighth chapter.—Vide Appendix C.
part of his name we may infer that he was a native of the Eastern Roman Empire, comprising what is now called European Turkey and Asia Minor, to which countries the term Rum is applied by the Arabs and Persians to this day. To this country the game had, (as we shall hereafter show), ere then passed either from Persia direct, which is the more probable supposition, or through the intercourse of the Arabs with the Byzantines, in peace or in war. 'Adali composed a work on the game, and is considered to have been nearly the equal of Al Sūlī in strength, both being of the class called 'Aliyat, or "first-rate." Next to these we read of Ibn Dandān and Al Kunāf, both of Bagdad, also of the highest class. With the 'Abbaside Caliphs themselves, Chess was a favourite amusement, and thence we may easily account for the remarkable progress made in the theory and practice of the game, and the high estimation in which distinguished players were held at the polished court of that dynasty.
The Arabs were the first we read of among the people of the East who excelled in playing "without seeing the board." We have good authority for saying that they practised this art as early as the middle of our seventh century, from the following passage in the description of Dr. Lee's Arabic MS., No. 77, as drawn up by Mr. N. Bland. (Vide Appendix C.) "The Introduction (to Dr. Lee's MS.) relates examples of the early Muhammadan doctors, and even of companions and followers of the Prophet, who either themselves played Chess, or were spectators of the game. Some of these are said also to have played behind their back,' i.e., without looking at the board." The Museum MS., No. 16,856, as I have already mentioned, is a translation of an old Arabian work on Chess,' the twelfth and last chapter of which is
1 The name of the author of the original Arabic work was "Abū Muham
devoted to this subject. The author, after a few preliminary remarks, supposed to be addressing himself to the player of the White men, thus proceeds :
"In the first place you are to bear in mind that the board is divided into equal portions by a horizontal line drawn from left to right. The half next to you is White's ground, and the other half is Black's. Again, imagine the board to be bisected perpendicularly by a line from top to bottom, thus forming four equal portions of sixteen squares each. The right-hand quarter is your King's; and the quarter on your left, your Queen's. In like manner, the quarter opposite your King's, belongs to the adversary's King, and that opposite to your Queen's belongs to the adverse Queen.
The various squares are reckoned from either extremity, and are named after the King or Queen in whose quarter they are. Thus, the square before your King's is called W. K.'s second square; next to that W. K.'s third square; then W. K.'s fourth square. Proceeding beyond the middle line, the next square is Black King's fourth square, next to that his third square, &c.; and a similar rule holds with regard to all the other squares. With regard to the Pieces and Pawns, those originally standing in your King's quarter are styled King's Pieces
mad Bin 'Umar Kājīna," of whom I never heard except here. It is highly probable that his lucubrations have long been lost, like many others, in countries where the art of printing is still in its infancy.
1 This is precisely the mode of describing the moves, &c., used by the early Italian masters, and by all our own writers on the subject till some twenty-five to thirty years ago, when our present method was introduced, I believe, by Mr. Lewis, in his valuable series of "Lessons on Chess." I confess I am myself partial to the old or Arabian system, being that which was in vogue when I began to read books on Chess.