Astrological chess was also described in Muraj adh-dhahab (Fields of Gold), 947. by the Arabic historian Ali ibn Abdullah al-Masudi (888-956).
From the French translation (Volume I, Chapter VII, p.161)
After him reigned Balhit. At this time the game of chess was invented, to which the king gave preference over backgammon, demonstrating that skill always wins in this game over ignorance. He made mathematical calculations about chess, and wrote on this subject a book called Tarak-Djenka, which remains popular among Indians. He often played chess with the wise men of his court, and it was he who gave to the pieces the figures of men and animals, their assigned grades and ranks, likened the King (Shah) to the head that directs, and so on for the other pieces. He also gave this game a kind of allegory of the higher bodies, that is to say, the heavenly bodies, the seven planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac, and each piece was consecrated to a star. The board became a school of government and defense; using it in wartime to represent military stratagems and to study the movement of the troops. The Indians give a mysterious meaning to the multiplication of the squares of the chess-board; they establish a connection between this first cause, which hovers above the spheres to which all leads, and the sum of the square of these boxes. This number is equal to 18,446,740,773,707, 551,615, where there are six times a thousand according to figures from the first series, five times a thousand after those of the second, four times a thousand after those of the third, three thousand times after those of the fourth, two thousand times those after the fifth and once those thousand after the sixth. The Indians explained by these calculations the march of time and centuries, the celestial influences in this world, and the ties that bind the human train. The Greeks, Romans and other nations have their own theories and specific methods for this game, as is shown in the treaties of chess players, from the oldest to el-Adli and es-Souli, the two most skilled players of our time. The reign of Balhit, until his death lasted eighty years, or, in other manuscripts, a hundred and thirty years.
Here, for the sake of completion, is the rest of what he has to say about chess:
The course of the story and following the narrative leads us to talk about chess and to quote what has been said on this subject. Already, in another part of this book, in the chapter of India, we talked about the origin of chess
, and the affinity of these games with the planetary bodies and stars. We will add a few new details.
The authors, ancient and modern, say that all the varieties of chess-boards can be reduced to six:
1. The ordinary square chess-board, which consists of eight boxes long by eight wide: it is attributed to the ancient peoples of India.
2. The oblong chessboard, four cells wide and sixteen long.
3. The 10x10 square chessboard. It has in addition two additional pieces called 'war machines', which move like the king, except if they take they can be taken.
4. The round chessboard attributed to the Byzantines.
5. Another round chessboard related to the stars and called zodiacal: its squares, twelve in number, as the signs of the zodiac..., on which move seven different colored pieces. The number seven refers to the five planets and the two great luminaries, the sun and the moon. We already mentioned in the chapter of India the theories of its scientists on the influence of celestial bodies and on the love of planetary substances. They believe that each sphere moves by the sympathetic attraction of a higher sphere; and as the soul descends from the world of intelligence it loses the memory of its origins and becomes ignorant of the knowledge she had. We have reported that the knowledge of these confused theories, according to them, is attached to the positions in the game of chess.
6. Another chessboard called organic, which was invented in our days. It contains seven squares by eight, and twelve pieces arranged six against six on each side of the table. Each of the six pieces is named after one of the organs or members that enable man to judge, speak, hear, see, touch, walk, that is to say, of the senses and common sense, whose seat is in the heart.
The Indians, Greeks, Persians, Byzantines and other nations who know of chess, have described this game, its shape, its laws, its origin, its causes, its features, the disposition of the pawns and figures, their different positions, etc. In addition, players bring together anecdotes and entertaining jests that, in the words of many of them, stimulate the player, give free rein to his moods and make for sharper thinking. These books are for them as didactic songs for the warrior on the battlefield, for the Hadi when the caravan is fatigued, for the distributor looking to the bottom of the water tank for travelers. It is for the chess player a stimulant as effective as the songs and verses for teaching fighters. Among the pieces of this kind, I will quote the following passage from a poem due to a player:
Poems to the honor of chess, are spread about, like a brilliant
flame more ardent than a brazier.
Many times they gave the advantage to the weak player over his ablest opponent!*
Here is a passage in which this game is described with a rare happiness of expressions:
A square chessboard, dressed in a red leather, is placed between two loyal friends.
They evoke the memory of the war and simulate it, but without seeking bloodshed.
One attacks, the other responds and the fight does not flag them.
See how by clever strategy the knights run over both armies, without fanfare or flags,
Among the poems of the same kind, remarkable for the elegance and finish of the descriptions they contain, we mention and finish with Abu 'l-Achan, son of Abu'l-Bagal the Katih; this character, who distinguished himself as secretary and as a government agent, was also renowned as a scholar of the game:
The intelligent man has chess to discover the consequences that escape the eyes of the ignorant.
With the steady gaze of wisdom it provides the denouments of the future under the guise of frivolity;
And thus it serves the interests of the Sultan, showing him through play how disasters are prevented.
For the experienced man, chessboard strategy equals that of the lance and squads (i.e, of the battlefield).
From Volume 8, p.312-317
Original Arabic with French translation (the source for my translation above) here:
https://archive.org/stream/lesprairiesd ... 2/mode/2up
*A less literal but more in the nature of the verse has it:
Hotter than the glow of charcoal glows the player’s timely jest.
Think how many a weaker player it has helped against the best.