hist-games: How did vikings play chess?
Mark Waks, AKA Justin du Coeur
justin at intermetrics.com
Mon Jan 31 10:59:12 PST 2000
tor.gausen at c2i.net wrote:
> I'm new on this list and wonder if anyone here could please
> say a few words about what rules vikings (i.e. AD 800-1050)
> followed when engaging each other in something as peaceful
> as a game of chess.
I'm not an expert, but I looked into this recently, and I gather that
the current scholarship is relatively skeptical that the Vikings *did*
play chess. Chess basically spread from India, through the Arabic world
to Europe, and mostly didn't hit northern Europe until after the
I've seen persistent references to the notion that the Vikings imported
the game separately, but never much evidence to back that up. I get the
impression that this is a misimpression, caused by old mistranslations
of "tafl" (a very different popular board game of the time) as "chess".
People got the idea in the 19th century that the Vikings played chess,
and that idea has never been shaken.
If anyone has any reasonably hard information otherwise, I'd love to
hear it. We're soon doing an SCA event set in AD 1000 Britain, and I
would be more than happy to include chess among the recreations. But I
get the impression that that's wishful thinking.
If the Vikings *did* play chess, odds are that it would be more or less
Shatranj, which is pretty much "generic medieval chess". See the Period
Games Rules Page:
for a pointer to that...
(The above is mostly based on HJR Murray's History of Chess, and Richard
Eales' Chess: The History of a Game.)
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