Well, not exactly that she invented or created chess, more like Queen Isabella had a huge influence over the game…
Spain is and has always been an important place for chess, some important characters for chess are from there too, like Ruy Lopez. Chess was not always as we know it today, the queen did not exist in chess, and pieces moved differently and had other names.
Chess is a millenary game, and it’s a game that portrays reality as it was known for mankind at that age. Pieces did not represent magical or mythical creatures, they represented soldiers, knights, and kings.
Essentially, that is what the game of chess is, a battle between two kings for absolute power. But that brutally changed somewhere between the years 1450 and 1500 when chess evolved to be something more similar to what we know today.
Chess was invented around the year 1000, and after 500 years, politics, wars, and systems change, so it’s logical that chess also changes. The most possible thing is that chess was simply “updated” to be faster and more adjusted to the age, here we’ll tell you why.
Spain and chess history
Experts think Spain, which held at the time cultural hubs like Seville or Cordoba, was the country that established the bedrock for modern chess as we know it. And to understand why, we must give you a brief explanation about who was one of the most powerful queens in history.
Isabella I of Castile was the queen of Castile, along with his husband Fernando de Aragón. They were both passionate chess players, and they use to play each other over their castle.
They are especially known for being the governors that allowed Columbus to do the expedition that would lead to the discovery of America.
Isabella had great influence over his husband and current king f Castile, the influence that she used for personal interests. As such, after Enrique IV (The other king of Castile in the year 1474) passed out by natural causes, she became the ruler of Castile.
She was praised for the great actions she did as a queen, and the catholic church flattered their reign.
So, what we know for a fact is that Isabelle I was a great queen, with so much power and influence. And this is probably the reason why the queen (that was not in the game before) was added to what modern chess is today…
Why is the queen so powerful in chess?
We know that chess is a representation of reality, and that is exactly what portrayed the addition of the queen to chess. Probably not in the year 1000 when chess first appeared, but in 1474, queens were an important part of politics in Spain and other countries.
Women have been unfairly given the least of credit for their actions throughout history, and Isabelle I knew this.
Do you think she had something to do with the addition of the queen to the game of chess? Or probably someone who praised Isabelle I for their excellent leadership added the queen as a manner of tribute?
In any case, the queen was added to chess during the times of her realm, and guidance. In addition to this, she was linked to transcendental changes as the discovery of America.
And undoubtedly, Isabelle I had way more influence over the king (and therefore over the realm) than anyone else. There is an old saying that goes “The lion is the king of the jungle, but his lioness is the real boss”.
Was the discovery of America thanks to a chess game?
This might sound like too much praise to Spain, but there are serious reasons to believe the discovery of America was thanks to chess. There is a tale, we are not sure if it is true, that shows how probably all of it was for a chess combination…
As you may know, king Ferdinand was greatly passionate about chess, and it was one of his favorite hobbies.
One day at noon, when normally he would be taking a royal nap, he was looking at a chessboard with great attention. And that was how, out of pure eagerness of chess, he invited the archbishop of Toledo Don Pedro Mendoza to a duel.
As they were playing an intense chess game, Isabella who was present in the room asked the king about Columbus and his request. Columbus had requested an admiral title and boats to conduct his dreamed expedition, but the king refused.
King Ferdinand, only interesting in the game, refused to state it was a title way too important to give it to a simple adventurer. Just then was when queen Isabella noticed the king in a desperate situation over the board.
Although it may seem like the king was losing the game, Ferdinand had a winning combination, but he had to see it! That was when Isabella saw the king’s face of struggle and threw a subtle hint…
“if your highness plays correctly, the Archbishop won’t stand four moves”
That was how King Ferdinand looked a little bit closer and there it is! A mate combination that takes the king to a win and the rejoice of victory over a strong opponent.
That was when the queen Isabella (taking advantage of the good humor of her husband for the win) asks again.
“What is the final decision over Columbus's request?”
That’s when King Ferdinand’s opinion seemed to change, “well, probably is not that important after all, just a new vessel for our Armada”.
That is the Story of how the discovery of America happened because of chess, and a little help from a queen in Spain.
Spain has always seen important chess events and players and has had a romantic link to the game since ever. One of the most important cities in Cordoba, a city that has seen some of the best players in the world.
In some of the chess events, we have seen Anatoly Karpov, Kasparov, and the former prodigy Arturo Pomar playing here. Just to name a few, one thing is for sure, Spain is one of the best places to go to understand chess and its history.
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