hist-games: for you, Justin (about Byzantine Chess)

Jane & Mark Waks waks at ne.mediaone.net
Mon Oct 9 18:30:47 PDT 2000


David Baines wrote:
> I remember an exchange a few months ago in which the "periodness" of
> Byzantine chess was discussed.  You expressed concern that Alfonzo's account
> of the game is not enough to prove that it was played in period.  Well, I
> have not found independent confirmation of that variant, but I found
> documentation that chess (of some variant) was played in Eastern Europe as
> early as 1093.  That is when it was banned by the Orthodox Church; we can
> assume that it was played in those lands much earlier.  Here is the link
> (the information is under "Religion and Chess"):
> 
> http://misc.traveller.com/chess/trivia/r.html

Useful information, although not surprising: chess was spreading pretty
broadly across the world by that point, and I probably would have been
more surprised if there hadn't been reason to believe it was known in
Eastern Europe by then. The question remains, though, of some sort of
confirmation of the round board. I haven't yet seen anything actually
from Eastern Europe that even hints at it, although I still hold out
some hope of seeing some information on that score. (I'm very fond of
Byzantine Chess, mind you -- just a little cautious about a game that is
being reported at such a distance. Really, I'm being intentionally
contrarian mostly because the account tends to be accepted rather
uncritically.)

That said, the referenced page is really neat; thanks for the pointer.
I'm so used to the usual Renaissance sources, where chess is pretty much
the only game treated as reputable, it's fascinating to see how poorly
it was viewed by the clergy earlier in period. I think I'll put a
pointer to this one onto the Period Games page...

				-- Justin

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