Well – my posting on the Templars playing chess (scroll down a bit to find it) was popular and one comment from Cairo was so good that I want to share it as a separate post – so over to my new Egyptian friend for the rest of this post:
Sunny greetings from Cairo, Egypt.
I can not claim that I am a chess or history veteran, however, being a good reader for Islamic/Arabic states history and a chess amateur at the same time, gives me a chance to comment on this article. I would summarise in few points.
1- “Shah mat” is not king is helpless! actually is “king is dead” as “mat” in Arabic means “die or dead”. Needless to say that the term is half Persian half Arabic. However, in Egypt we use another term: “Kesh mat” and honestly I did not know exactly what does “kesh” mean? could be another Persian word, Turkish or even Kurd!! Yes, do not wonder many words, terms and expressions moved freely between the three nations.
2- The elephant is still used till now among Arab players for what you call Bishop! But the Rook is derivative of “Rokh” which is a legendary huge bird like a Phoenix. We use “Rokh” in our chess notation, however, among norms “Rokh” is used to be “Tabya” which is Turkish word means “Tower with a gun” or castle.
3- Ironical, chess is a forbidden game in many classical books of “Fatwa” [check this” http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fatwa ] and it as treated the same way as dice and backgammon, that is to say gambling games, waste of time and keeps muslims distracted from Quran and contemplation of Allah. “I used your words with little twist”. Nowadays, some “Salfi” muslims, [extremely radical wing of muslims] add to the reasons of forbidding chess, it has a Cross on the top of the King!! Despite these “fatwas” muslims norms and elite continued to play chess, even the top statesmen like the Abasside Khalife Haroun ArRasheed, who sent – I read once – chess set to the French King Charles Martel long time before the Crusaders.
4- The crucial subject is: when and how chess was baptised and let me say christened ? I won’t ask where because it is obvious, the place is Spain or to be more specific “Castilla” which is the north part of Spain – in Arabic “Quashtalla” that was under the rule of Catholic Kings who for long time had a war versus the South Andalucia – in Arabic Andalus –
That book “Libro de los juegos” could be the start of that process.
The none copy righted photo you used is not far from another one : http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/islam/games/ The baptism process was complete I assume by the end of 15th century, worth mentioning that the last Arabic/Islamic kingdom of Granada fell down in 1492.
5- I knew that the major concern of this blog is not chess, but I found this article coincidently and saw that will be good to give a view from a revered angle.
The Knight Templars have a very bad reputation in Arab History books, it will be interesting to have some bits and bites from time to time.