Unixplorian Chess Society


The history of chess spans around 1.500 years. The earliest predecessors of chess originated in India in 500 BC. From there, it spread to Persia. The phrase "checkmate" (Sâh Mât) is Persian and means "the king is defeated" or "the king is helpless."


When the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was introduced in Northern Africa, and from there, it spread even further North to Europe. In Europe, it developed into its present form in the 1400s. During the second half of the 1800s, chess tournaments began to gain attention. The first official World Championships were held in 1886.

Unixplorian Chess Society
Unixplorian Chess Championships

About Chess

Chess is a board game designed for two players, one controlling the White army and the other the Black army. The objective of the game is to checkmate the opponent's king. It is also known as international or Western chess to distinguish it from similar games, such as Chinese chess (xiangqi) and Japanese chess (shogi). The history of chess dates back to at least the seventh century in India, with a similar game called chaturanga. The modern rules of chess emerged in Europe by the end of the 15th century, and they were universally accepted and standardized by the end of the 19th century. Today, chess is one of the most popular board games, played by millions worldwide.

Chess is a strategic game that involves no hidden information or elements of chance. It is played on a chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an 8x8 grid. Each player starts with sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. White always moves first, followed by Black. The game aims to checkmate the opponent's king by threatening it with a capture that cannot be avoided. A game can also end in a draw in various ways.

Chess as we know it today began in the 19th century and is now governed internationally by FIDE (the International Chess Federation). Wilhelm Steinitz was the first universally recognized World Chess Champion, winning the title in 1886. Ding Liren is currently the World Champion. Over time, a significant amount of chess theory has been developed. Chess composition involves elements of art, and the game has also influenced Western culture and the arts. Chess also connects with other fields, such as mathematics, computer science, and psychology.

The early computer scientists aimed to create a machine that could play chess. In 1997, Deep Blue made history by defeating the reigning World Champion, Garry Kasparov, in a match. Today, chess engines are much stronger than the best human players and have significantly impacted the development of chess theory. However, it is essential to note that chess has not been solved yet.

Tafl Games and Hnefatafl

Tafl games, or hnefatafl games, are ancient strategy board games that originated in Northern Europe. They are played on a checkered or latticed gameboard with two armies of uneven numbers. They were most likely inspired by the Roman game Ludus latrunculorum. Different types of Tafl include Hnefatafl, Tablut, Tawlbwrdd, Brandubh, Ard Rí, and Alea Evangelii. Tafl games were played in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Britain, Ireland, and Sápmi.

Chess eventually replaced Tafl gaming in the 12th century. However, the Sámi people's tafl variant, tablut, remained in use until at least the 18th century. The rules for tablut were recorded by the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus in 1732. These rules were later translated from Latin to English in 1811, but the translation contained numerous errors.

All modern tafl games are based on the 1811 translation, but new rules were added to address the issues resulting from the errors. This led to the creation of a modern family of tafl games. In addition, tablut is now played according to its original rules, which have also been translated.


The game known as tafl (pronounced "table" or "board" in Old Norse) was initially called by this name in Norse culture. However, by the end of the Viking Age, the preferred term for this game in Scandinavia became Hnefatafl. This was done to differentiate it from other board games, such as Skáktafl (chess), Kvatrutafl (Tables), and Halatafl (Fox games), which also became well-known during this time. The name Hnefatafl may have been derived from the words "board game of the fist," as hnefi (meaning "fist") was used to refer to the central king-piece.

The exact origin of the term "Hnefatafl" is uncertain, but it is believed that "hnefi" was used to refer to the king-piece in the game. Many sources have referred to Hnefatafl as "King's table." During the Anglo-Saxon era, the term "tæfl" was used to describe a variety of board games. It is still unclear whether the Anglo-Saxons had a specific name for Hnefatafl or if they used "tæfl" as a generic term to refer to all board games, just like we might use "cards" nowadays.

Several games might be confused with tafl games because they include the word tafl in their names or have other similarities. Halatafl is the Old Norse name for Fox and Geese, which is a game that dates back to at least the 14th century and is still played in Europe. Kvatrutafl is the Old Norse name for Tables, the medieval forerunner of Backgammon. Skáktafl is the Old Norse name for chess. Fidchell or Fithcheall (Modern Irish: Ficheall) was played in Ireland. The Welsh equivalent was Gwyddbwyll, and the Breton equivalent was Gwezboell; all terms mean "wood-sense." This famous medieval game was played with equal forces on each side and thus was not a tafl variant. Instead, it may have been the medieval descendant of the Roman game Latrunculi or Ludus latrunculorum.

How to Play

Hnefatafl, often called Viking Chess, was a widely popular game during the medieval period in Scandinavia and was even mentioned in various Norse sagas. However, there is a controversy regarding the use of dice while playing this game, as some saga references suggest that dice might have been used. Unfortunately, since the game's rules were never explicitly recorded, and only a few playing pieces and fragmentary boards have been found, it is not known how the game was played. Even if dice were used, nothing has been recorded regarding how they were employed. Archaeological and literary sources suggest that the game was played on either a 13x13 or an 11x11 board.

During the Viking era, which lasted from the end of the 8th century to 1000 AD, Hnefatafl became a popular game in Northern Europe. It was a time of conflict and turbulence. However, with the popularity of chess during the Middle Ages, the rules of Hnefatafl were eventually forgotten. The game was particularly famous in Nordic countries. It spread to other parts of Europe, including the British Isles and the Viking country of Garðaríki, which is now part of Russia.

The board game was developed separately in different regions. Various editions have been discovered in places such as Ireland and Ukraine. Hnefatafl comes from the Old Norse term hnef, meaning 'fist,' and tafl, meaning 'table,' and translates to "fist table."

Shogi, Japanese Chess
Game setup: Hnefatafl



Mr. Ding Liren (China)

Magnus Carlsen


Chess Master

HRH Leif Oxenmyr

HRH Leif Oxenmyr


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Chess pieces