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and faithful representation of a battle-field, which it is proper that your Majesty should inspect in the first place. In the mean time let the Indian Ambassador be summoned into the Royal presence, together with the more distinguished among his retinue, also a few of the wise and learned of our own Court, that they may all bear witness how we have acquitted ourselves in accomplishing the task imposed upon us by the King of Kanoj."
"Kisra Naushirawan was delighted to hear the words of his wise and enlightened Minister. He embraced him as his friend, the ornament of his realm, and the brightest gem of his Court. Then he sent a deputation of the wise, the virtuous, the noble and the brave, to conduct into his presence the Envoy from the Sovereign of Hind. When the latter arrived, Buzurjmihr requested of him to declare in public the message entrusted to him by his own Sovereign. Here the Ambassador repeated in detail the purport of the letter addressed to Naushirawān. When he had done speaking, Buzurjmihr placed the chessboard and the pieces before the King and the learned of the Court then present, and thus addressed them :— 'You have all heard the words of the Ambassador from the King of Kanoj, now pay attention to what I am going to explain to you.' Here the sage counsellor pointed out to them how the board of sixty-four squares represented a battle-field, and thus he proceeded to draw up in battle array the ebony and ivory forces."
I would, with due submission, just hint as a probability, that an able diplomatist -such as the Persian counsellor must have been-might have come to a satisfactory understanding with the Indian Envoy on this intricate affair, while the men of wisdom were elsewhere puzzling their brains in vainly trying to solve the enigma. Deschapelles says of himself, "Three sittings were all that I required to learn the march of the game, to defend myself, and then beat the strongest players!" It is said that Deschapelles persisted in this assertion so perseveringly that he at last believed it to be true.
Arrangement of the Pieces.
"The King occupied the centre of the line in the rear; and by his side stood an intelligent Counsellor, ready to guide him in the path of victory, and to defend him in the midst of the combat. Next to the King and Counsellor stood the furious Elephants, impatient to rush forward into the deadly strife. Next in order stood the War Steeds, ready to spring forth to the aid and rescue of the King. On either flank stood the irresistible Rukhs,' the chosen champions and guardians of the King and the army. In front of these stood the Foot Soldiers, whose task it was to open the combat, at the command of their King."
Moves of the Pieces.2
"The King moved one square in all directions. The Counsellor moved one square diagonally around his
1 It would be out of place here to trace the various transformations of the Sanskrit "Roka" into the Persian "Rukh," then into the Arabic "Rukhkh," thence into the "Bifrons Rochus" of the medieval Latin writers, down to our own "Rook," i.e., "cornix frugivora," as Hyde hath it. Suffice it to say, that the meaning attached to the word by Firdausi is evidently that of "Champion," or "Warrior," par excellence, and in more places than one he uses, instead of "Rukh," what he seems to consider a synonymous term, viz., "mubāriz,” a “hero.” He describes him mounted on horseback, as in the following couplet— "Mubariz ki asp afganad bar do rū, Ba dasti chap o rāst, parkhāsh-jū.”
"A warrior who urged on his steed in both directions,
To the left hand and to the right, seeking for combat."
Of course the "Champion" would differ in armour, equipment, and appearance from the Knight. It is a curious fact that the Russians to this day call this piece by the same name that it originally had in Sanskrit, viz., "Lodia," or
' Lodya" (a "ship" or boat") ; a circumstance which would lead us to infer that the game reached them from India, direct through Turan or Tartary, and not by way of Persia and Arabia, as in the case of the other European nations. See further on, Chapter XIV.
2 I have already mentioned (page 41, note), how impossible it was for me
sovereign. The Elephant, with head reared aloft, moved three squares diagonally, but attacked only the last of
when writing to a popular periodical such as the "Illustrated London News," to clog the subject with notes and explanations. Soon after this Chapter appeared in print the following query was addressed to me through the same channel by Alpha
"A point of the greatest interest in the history of Chess is the description given by Firdausi in the Shāhnāma of the position and moves of the pieces when the game was first introduced into Persia. I should, therefore, be extremely glad to know from what manuscripts (their date, &c.) Dr. Forbes derived his translation describing the "moves of the pieces," in Chapter vi. of his 'Observations.' He informs us that he has chiefly followed the MSS. Add. 18,188 (written A.D. 1486) and 7724 (written A.D. 1621), preserved in the British Museum ; but I am assured by a competent authority, that this account of the moves does not occur in either of the above MSS.; nay, more, that it is not to be found in any of the copies of the Shāhnāma' in the British Museum (including a copy of great antiquity recently acquired, written A.H. 675 A.D. 1276); nor is it even in the text of Firdausi,' published at Calcutta in 1829, by Macan. It is true, however, that Hyde (Hist. Shahlud.' p. 63) quotes some lines from a copy of the 'Shāhnāma,' in which the moves are noticed; but this text does not agree with the version given us by Dr. Forbes; and the MS. from which it was taken can scarcely be relied on, since it contains some interpolated lines, in which two Camels are added to the other pieces on the board."-ALPHA.
The reader may easily conceive that this pithy communication gave me some temporary annoyance, that is, an annoyance of a week's duration, till the next day of publication, on which I sent the following reply :—“ My answer to Alpha is that the MSS. from which I made (not derived) my translation, "describing the moves of the pieces" are precisely those I mentioned, viz., No. 18,188 and No. 7724, preserved in the British Museum. At the same time I briefly consulted some nine or ten other MSS. of the Shāhnāma in the British Museum, as well as Macan's printed edition; yea, more, I consulted the so-called 'copy of great antiquity' alluded to by Alpha,' before it came to the Museum. Well, in all of these, with I believe only one exception, the account of the moves does occur exactly as I have given them; always excepting, or rather excluding, a couplet about the two camels-which I agree with Alpha' in viewing it as an interpolation. Now we join issue, as the lawyers say. Alpha denies the existence of the account of the moves,' in every copy of the Shāhnāma in the Museum, as well as in Macan's printed edition. I, on the other hand, pledge my truth and honour that the account of the moves' DOES OCCUR (with, at most, one exception) in every one of the manuscripts of the Shāhnāma in the Museum, as well as in Macan's printed edition; and I am quite ready to point out the passage in all of them to any gentleman and scholar who may have the least doubt on the matter.
58, Burton-crescent, 19th Nov., 1855.
the three. The War Horse could spring three squares obliquely, clearing the square next to him. The heroic Rukh, longing for combat, rushed on in each of the four directions: woe to the enemy that crossed his path, for he commanded the whole range of the battle-field. The Foot Soldier, from either side, advanced straight forward at the King's command, in order to attack the hostile forces; and in his onward march he slew the enemy obliquely, to the right hand and to the left. When he had traversed the whole field, as far as the opposite extremity, he was rewarded with the rank of Counsellor, and thenceforth took his stand by the side of his Sovereign.1
"When Buzurjmihr had thus explained the evolutions of the ebon and ivory warriors, the whole assembly stood mute in admiration and astonishment. The Indian Am
The misconception on the part of Alpha arose from a very simple circumstance. In Firdausi's account of the game the story happens to be interrupted in the middle by the insertion of two other long stories, as we often see in the "Arabian Nights." The conclusion of the Chess history, where the " moves of the pieces" are given, appears to have escaped the notice of Alpha altogether. In justice to myself I have here reproduced the correspondence. I am quite convinced that no offence was intended, as, most assuredly none was taken. In matters of this sort, it is only the truth that offends.
1 In the Shatranj, or mediæval game, a Pawn, on reaching the opposite extremity of the board, instantly became a Farzin or Counsellor only, but never a Rukh, a Knight, or a Fil. Such appears to have been the law in Europe down to the end of our fifteenth century: and, if we may trust Sarratt, it seems to have lingered in Italy to a more recent period. In his New Treatise on Chess, 1821, vol. i., p. 51, Sarratt says: "In Italy you may have two Queens, but you are restricted to Queens; you are not allowed to call for any other piece.” Sarratt, to be sure, is not a first rate authority, still he must have had some ground for his assertion. What is more surprising, however, is, that Mr. George Walker, in the very last edition of his "Art of Chess-Play," improves considerably on Sarrat. In page 24, Mr. Walker states, "In Italy, the law requires that the Pawn should be replaced with a Queen, whether or not the orignal Queen is defunct, and with no other piece. It were well to adopt the same regulation here, as most conducive to order and uniformity!" Now, if this is the law in Italy at present, as Mr. Walker would lead us to suppose, it must be one of very recent enactment. It was unknown in that country in the days of Ercole del Rio, of Lolli, and of Ponziani,-writers, from whose works Mr. Walker pretends to have "gathered blossoms." It is a pity he did not at the same time gather some of their fruits.
bassador was filled with mingled vexation and surprise; he looked upon Buzurjmihr as a man endowed with intelligence far beyond that of mere mortals and thus he pondered in his own mind:- How could he have discovered the nature and principles of this profound game ? Can it be possible that he has received his information from the sages of Hind? Or is it really the result of his own penetrating research, guided by the acuteness of his unaided judgment? Assuredly Buzurjmihr has not this day his equal in the whole world.' In the meanwhile Naushirawan in public acknowledged the unparalleled wisdom of his favorite counsellor. He sent for the most costly and massive goblet in his palace, and filled the same with the rarest of jewels. These, together with a war steed, richly caparisoned, and a purse full of gold pieces, he presented to Buzurjmihr."