Conquer your opponent’s king, or shah, and protect your own – on a large-scale, outdoor chess set installed for the summer on the grounds of the Museum. Care for a more intimate match or want to play sheltered from inclement weather? Visit our Tickets Desk to inquire about tabletop chess boards available to enjoy during your Museum visit.*
*Please note chess boards are subject to availability.
ROYAL ORIGINS OF CHESS
Whether you choose the tabletop or the outdoor version, you’re taking part in what was once a royal test of strategy. Invented in Southeast Asia thousands of years ago to educate the youth of the ruling elites, the game is a “battle” fought on a checkered board with movable pieces representing figures of royal, military, and clerical status.
A GAME DEVELOPED ACROSS TIME AND GEOGRAPHY
Chess has crossed many cultures to become one of the most popular skill games in the world. The Shahnameh, the Persian Book of Kings, tells how the Grand Vizier was introduced to the game in the 6th century by an Indian envoy, who challenged the Iranian and then lost to him – proving there is always hope for a beginner player! When the Arabs conquered Iran in the 7th century chess spread to the Arabian peninsula, and by the 9th century it was being played in Spain and Southern Italy. A parallel route took the game from Asia to Russia, and from there to Europe.
A MILLENIUM-OLD CHESS SET
Before or after your chess game, see how they played it a thousand years ago! The World of the Fatimids, on view in our second-floor galleries until July 2, features a set of carved rock crystal chess pieces from the 10th – 11th century. The shapes of the chess pieces are matched by ivory or bone models dug up in the Iranian world. Their carved motifs are common in the art of Iran, where they are likely to have been made.
Photo by Connie Tsang