hist-games: How did vikings play chess??

Chas webmaster at historicgames.com
Tue Feb 1 08:43:30 PST 2000

Mea culpa if this is a repeat, but I think I had the reply address wrong so I
thought I'ld try again just in case.

David Parlett in his 1999 book "Oxford History of Board Games" Says: 
  "Chess entered western Europe from Islam in the 10th century -perhaps
earlier, but sporadically and unrecorded. The oldest literary reference (circa
990's AD) is that of the "Versus de schachis, a 99-line poem ...in two
manuscripts of the Swiss monestary of Einsiedeln."

So for much of the "AD 800-1050" timeframe in the original question, Chess would
probably just be arriving, and the tafl/hnefatafl/halatafl game variants would
probably still be a more common game for the Vikings. 

-Speaking of tafl and changing language (-in a previous posting)... Parlett
has what I thought was an interesting note on Fidchell: 
"In modern Irish, Ficheall (as it is now spelt) is generic for any kind of
wooden board game, such as draughts, Chess and Backgammon." He goes on to
mention the "notorious tendency of (game) names to attach themselves to
different games as each in turn becomes obsolete." This type of confusion of
changing language may have contributed to some of the theories that Fidchell
was something other than a tafl variant, and would agree with Justin's point
about Tafl sometimes having been mis-translated as Chess.

MacGregor Games
Purveyors of historic pastimes to re-enactors around the world

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