Friday, January 22, 2010

History of religion and chess

Frank 'Boy' Pestaño
Chessmoso

CEBU Province, in the latest count, has a population of 3.5 million, of which 2 million are in Metro Cebu.

So I was amazed to read in the papers that two million people joined the procession during the Sinulog and that eight million spectators watched the parade.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

This means that we had close to six million visitors, which is just mind-boggling, or somebody made a mistake.

This just goes to show that the Cebuanos are very religious, not counting me and a few of my friends.

Chess and religion did not always get along. At one time or another, chess was forbidden by Muslims, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Jews, the Puritans, and the Taliban.

Throughout its history, chess has experienced acceptance and rejection within the religious world.

The main reason for these was that religion disapproved of the game because of the “graven images.” In the Judeo-Christian world, such carved images were either considered idols, or too close to idols.

Chess became a legal issue after Mohammad died in 642. In 655, his son-in-law disapproved of the game for his sect of Muslims (Sunni) because of the graven images.

Another reason was that chess was considered a form of gambling or that it encouraged gambling. They also said that chess players were prone to an unhealthy preoccupation of the game. One should be in prayer or study instead.

The problem of chess in Christendom was the early forms of the game, which was associated with gambling.

Chess was brought to Europe by the Moors thru Spain in the eighth century. The knights were elephants as it was invented in India and the Queen was a man (the King’s advisor).

The game became very popular in Europe and underwent some dramatic changes to keep it from being associated with “graven images.” The pieces were changed to match the society prevailing during that time—King and Queen, castles (rooks) and serfs (pawns). Bishops had great power 400 to 500 years ago in Europe and actually had their own armies.

Pawns or serfs are often sacrificed to save the more valuable pieces and there are more of them in the board than any other pieces.

The knight represents the professional soldier whose purpose was to protect persons of rank and, like pawns, can be sacrificed to ensure the safety of the bishops, queen and king.

The castle is the refuge, just as it was in medieval Europe.

However, during the dark ages, chess was discouraged by the Christian Church. In 1061, Cardinal Damiani (1007-1072) of Ostin forbade the clergy to play chess.
He even wrote to the Pope complaining that chess was being played by some clergy.

In 1093, chess was condemned and forbidden by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Other such acts included: St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) forbidding the Knights Templars from playing chess; and in 1208, the Bishop of Paris decreed that chess be banned from the clergy.

The most significant decision during this time was the prohibition of chess by St. Louis (Louis IX) in 1254, four years after he was a prisoner in Egypt during the VII crusade.

After the dark ages and reformation, theology changed. A newer view of Scripture saw games and chess as a pastime meant for enjoyment. Some of the greatest early players and “masters” were clergy. This was because they often were the most educated.

The most important sovereign in chess development was Alphonse X of Castile who was an avid chess player and a great humanist.

In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was proclaimed patroness of chess players by church authorities in Spain.

Popes who played chess included Pope Leo XIII (Gioacchino Pecci), Pope Gregory VI, Pope Innocent III and Pope Leo X.

Modern players were Pope John Paul I and John Paul II.

(boypestano@chess.com,www.chessmoso.blogspot.com)