25 August 2016

Murky, Murkier, Murkiest

I ended my previous post, 2016 CJA Awards, with an action:-

As for winner of the best eBook, 'True Origins of Chess: Ancient Greece', that deserves a separate post.

Amazon.com's page for the book, 'The True Origins of Chess: Ancient Greece-Yes, India-No' by Dr. Gerald Levitt, has a 'Look inside' popup that includes an excerpt from floridaCHESS (Autumn 2014, p.24). Titled 'Pettia and Chess in Ancient Greece' and also by Dr. Levitt, it says,

As there is no factual evidence yet discovered that delineates the actual evolution of chess, we are forced to use circumstantial evidence. supposition, and imagination to develop a reasonable explanation as to how and where chess arose in history. The evidence used in the past was that the earliest written or illustrated references we had to the game of Chaturanga, came from India in the 6th century, A.D. This concept of the origins of chess has been accepted and I wholeheartedly agree that that idea is correct but I also believe it is not complete. Chataranga had to come from a forerunner. It seems so logical that the game evolved. But from where? And when?

His 'From where? And when?' is based on a tract titled,

An Inquiry into the Antient [sic] Greek Game supposed to have been Invented by Palemedes. Antecedent to the Siege of Troy. With Reasons for Believing the Same lo Have Been Known from Remote Antiquity In China, and Progressively Improved into the Chinese Indian, Persian. and European Chess (London 1801)

Levitt surmised,

I thought the author (later identified as being James Christie, founder of Christie's Auction House in London) had presented a logical but perhaps somewhat fanciful argument for the origins of chess having not sprung up out of nothingness from the Indian Chataranga, the accepted view at the time, but instead to have been birthed in earlier cultures, specifically Ancient Greece. Christie speculated that an earlier culture most likely led to the Greeks developing these earlier games into Pettia, the Greek game of pebbles. I feel that India deserved the credit that it had been the source leading to our modern game of chess through Chataranga [...] But the question still lingered, "Where did chataranga come from?"

I once looked into this subject while writing an introductory survey titled, The Origin of Chess. It says, 'India - Chaturanga: It is not surprising that the earliest evidence of chess is also the murkiest.' Levitt's book promises to make the subject even murkier.

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