SHATRANJ

Chess today is the new black, the lithe and lissom, with Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana at the center of the Zeitgeist elevating the game of the once king of the kings to a wider audience.

Publication Date

15.11.2018

Photography and Film

Qompendium Editorial

More information

The World Chess Championship 2018 is a chess match between the reigning world champion since 2013, Magnus Carlsen, and challenger Fabiano Caruana to determine the World Chess Champion. The 12-game match, organized by FIDE and World Chess, will be played in London between 9th and 28th November 2018 with a prize fund of over EUR 1 million. The match takes place every two years.

Many countries claim to have invented the chess game in some incipient form. The most commonly held belief is that chess originated in India, where it was called Chaturanga, which appears to have been invented in the 6th century AD.

Although this is commonly believed, it is thought that the Persians created a more modern version of the game after the Indians. In fact, the oldest known chess pieces have been found in excavations of ancient Persian territories.

From ancient Persia to medieval Europe to the dens of Benjamin Franklin and Norman Schwarzkopf, Chess today is the new black, the lithe and lissom, with Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana at the center of the Zeitgeist elevating the game of the once king of the kings to a wider audience.

Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen, born 30 November 1990, is a Norwegian chess grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion. His peak rating of 2882, achieved in 2014, is the highest in history.

Fabiano Luigi Caruana, born July 30, 1992, is an Italian-American chess grandmaster. A chess prodigy, he became a grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 11 months and 20 days – the youngest grandmaster in the history of both Italy and the United States at the time. In November 2018 he is playing a match with Magnus Carlsen for the World Chess Championship.

If you understand exponentials, the key to many of the secrets of the Universe is in your hand. – Carl Sagan

The Persian Chessboard

Carl Sagan titled the second chapter of his final book, Billions and Billions, The Persian Chessboard. In the second chapter, (Sagan acknowledges the story may have originated in India or even China) Sagan gives his version of a very common story how exponential powers of two were a very “unpleasant surprise” for a Persian King outwitted by his Grand Vizier.

Having invented the marvellous game of chess for his King, the Grand Vizier was asked to name his reward. He asked for 1 grain of wheat for the first square on the chess board, two for the second, 4 for the third, 8 for the fourth and so on… until he receives payment for all 64 squares on the board. The King apparently argues that the reward is too modest, but agrees to pay.

264 is 18.6 quintillion grains of wheat (actually 18,446,744,073,709,551,616)… which Sagan calculates would weigh 75 billion metric tons or 150 years of today’s modern wheat production. Unable to pay, the King is effectively bankrupted and – depending on what version of the story you prefer – may have been forced to hand his kingdom over to the Grand Vizier.