History of Chess

Researched, compiled, written and copyright 2000-9 by David Cohen. Last updated: 2009.11.06.
Main web site & contact: Canadian Chess.

History of World Chess

When Alexander of Macedonia invaded India with his army from Greece, over 2,300 years ago, he tried to combine the two cultures. Chess resulted from the combination of the logic games of Greece and the race games of India. [1] Think of the logic of how the pieces move, and the racing of pawns to the opposite sides of the board.

The board represents a battlefield. The pieces represent the Indian army’s leader (king); advisor to the leader (queen); and four components: infantry (pawn), cavalry (knight), chariotry (rook) and elephantry (bishop).

Chess spread to the East to China and Japan, as well as across the Arabic world and into Europe. From there, chess came to Canada around the 17th century, brought from England and France by explorers and the military.

History of Canadian Chess

Chess has been played in Canada since the early 18th century, and probably since the late 17th century. According to the 1947 Canadian Championship tournament book edited by Leopold Christin, Alexandre de Chaumont, aide-de-camp of de Tracy (Lt.-Gen. of the armies of the King of France in America), was one of the best chess players in France in 1665, and suggests that he would not have spent his two years in the French colony (now Quebec) without playing chess. [2]

According to Christin, archival correspondence of Louis-Guillaume Verrier, Solicitor-General of Quebec, documents his chess playing with the Intendant of Quebec, Hocquart, 1728-58.

There is a chess set in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa which was donated by Fred Hale. According to him, this was the set his ancestor, General Sir John Hale, "and General Wolfe played with on their way over to the taking of Quebec" in 1759.

Organized local chess in Canada dates from the late 18th century: Richard Bulkeley was president of a 'chess, pencil, and brush club' in Halifax, Nova Scotia from about 1787. By the 1840s, chess clubs were operating in Quebec City, Quebec, and Kingston, Ontario. The Montreal Chess Club was founded in 1844, and the Toronto Chess Club was operating by 1846.

Organized chess across Canada began with the formation of the Canadian Chess Association (CCA) at Hamilton, Ontario on 1872.09.24. The first Canadian chess book was published around this time. In 1924, Canada became a founding member of the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), the international governing body for chess. In 1932, the CCA was transformed into the Canadian Chess Federation, which was renamed the Chess Federation of Canada (CFC) in 1945. In 1955, the CFC first approved the establishment of the Chess Foundation of Canada as its Permanent Trust Fund, and the first donation was made in 1956.

Correspondence chess has thrived in Canada since the 19th century; the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association was founded in 1921, and its magazine has been published since 1927.

Chess in the schools has increased since the formation of Chess'n Math Association in 1985.

The Canadian style in chess "involves non-committal preservation of options, often connected with a slow development of the pieces," according to Lawrence Day [3]. This style was developed in the 1960s by Duncan Suttles and influenced a generation of Canadian chess players.


Thanks to Grandmaster Yuri Averbakh for citations for his theory on the origins of chess.


[1] V poiskah istiny (Looking for a truth), by Yuri Averbakh, Moscow, 1992; presented by Yuri Averbakh at the 4th International colloquium "The board-games in Academia", Fribourg, Switzerland, 2002, published in Step by step, University of Fribourg, 2002.

[2] Championnat Canadien des Échecs 1947, 1947.

[3] Quote from Lawrence Day on Canadian style in chess is from his article on chess in The Canadian Encyclopedia, 1985.