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The history of chess spans some 1500 years. The game originated in northern India in the 6th century AD and spread to Persia. When the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world and subsequently, through the Moorish conquest of Spain, spread to Southern Europe.

In Europe, the moves of the pieces changed in the 15th century. The modern game starts with these changes. In the second half of the 19th century, modern tournament play began. Chess clocks were first used in 1883, and the first world chess championship was held in 1886. The 20th century saw advances in chess theory, and the establishment of the World Chess Federation. Chess engines (programs that play chess), and chess data bases became important.

The precursors of chess originated in northern India during the Gupta empire, where its early form in the 6th century was known as Chaturanga. This translates as 'the four divisions', meaning infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively.

The game of chess is really two games. There is the original Indo-Arabic game, and there is the modern game, usually called 'international chess'. The transition between the two happened during the change from the medieval world to the modern world, in the Europe of the later 15th century. In fact, the new game of chess was one of the early topics chosen for the new technology of printing.

Modern chess theory was slow in developing. After the new moves of the pieces, players spent their time playing gambits, and trying to mate each other. The games of Gioacchino Greco (1600 ~1634) clearly show this. The first ideas as to how to win indirectly, 'positionally', started with Philidor. Modern chess has a lot of indirect manoeuvering of a kind the old Arabic players would have understood. They could not attack directly, because their Alfil and Firzān (our bishop and queen) had such limited moves.

One interesting fact is that the Arabs divided their game into the same three stages which we do today: opening, middlegame and endgame.