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Chess Guide > Arabic Literature

Chess Guide

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Early Arabic chess literature

With the sole exception of two works in Middle Persian (the Karnamak and the Chatranj Namak) all of the early works (pre-1000 CE) on chess were written by Arabic authors. At this point in the origins of chess the rules were those of Shatranj.

During the golden age of Arabic, many works on chess were written, recording for the first time the analysis of opening games, chess problems, the knight's tour, and many more subjects common in modern chess books. Many of these are missing; while we have firm evidence of their existence, no copies are known to have survived.

The earliest listing of works on chess is in the Kitab al-fihrist, a general bibliography produced in 377 AH (988 CE) by ibn Ishaq an-Nadim. It includes an entire section on the topic of chess, listing:

  • Al-Adli's Kitab ash-shatranj ('Book of chess')

  • Ar-Razi's Latif fi'sh-shatranj ('Elegance in chess')

  • As-Suli's Kitab ash-shatranj (two volumes)

  • Al-Lajlaj's Kitab mansubat ash-shatranj ('Book of chess-positions or problems')

  • B. Aliqlidisi's Kitab majmu'fi mansubat ash-shatranj ('Collection of chess problems')

(list based upon translation by Harold Murray)

There is a passage referring to chess in a work said to be by Hasan, a philosopher from Basra who died in 728 CE; however the attribution of authorship is dubious.


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