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How The Queen’s Gambit helped rekindle the people’s lost love for chess

Learn about how much chess has changed since its arrival during the 10th century

Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit is one of the most talked about series currently. It not only became one of Netflix’s highest-viewed originals, it also increased the sales of chess boards around the world. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the game came to be.

War on a board


The game arrived to Europe through the Mediterranean trade routes in the 10th century, but after its arrival, it underwent many changes so as to fit the society’s political structure.

Chess started off as a game of war, and the pieces represented cavalry: horsemen, elephant-riding fighters, charioteers and troops. They were present to protect the “Shah” or king, and his counselor or “firz.”

The Europeans made the “Shah” the king, the “vizier” to queen, the elephants to bishops, the horses to knights, the chariots to rooks or castles and soldiers to pawns. Now it’s no longer an army; it was the western social order.

The game helped the medieval society realise that every person has their designated place. Then came the queen’s transformation. In medieval Europe, as the game gained popularity, it was initially declared that the queen had the power to move by only one square. This changed in the 15th century when it was declared that the queen can move unlimitedly in any direction. This helped the game gain more momentum and players supported it as well.

Chess was compared a lot to life as well during those times. It depicted societal obligations and ties between citizens. Dominican friar Jacobus de Cessolis used chess to teach personal accountability. His teachings got so famous that it was one of the central messages in The Queen’s Gambit as well.


(Cover: Netflix)

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