Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century

Fools = Bishops might surprise, but the French expression for the bishop was "Fou" and the Bohemian-Luxemburgian-German court was strongly influenced by French customs.
Yes and the hat favors the confusion in the chess:
sombreros.jpg (19.8 KiB) Viewed 11994 times
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century

Interesting observation ...

... :-) ... though I think, that this Fool was intended as pawn.

Do you know



In the Pierpont-Morgan-Bergamo Tarocchi in the original state there were only 14 cards (according the 5x14-theory). The participating 14 trumps (= group 1) were recognized by the fact, that the decks were painted by two painters and the first (probably Bembo) painted 14 special cards only and all the small arcana.
The 14 cards of group 1 are parted in group 1A (6 cards) and 1B (8 cards).

The original order probably was so:

14 Judgment ( later in Marseille order 20) ... in card game King ... in chess part of group 1B
13 Death (13) ... Queen ... group 1A
12 Hanging Man (12) ... Ober ... group 1A
11 Fool ((later 0)) ... Unter ... group 1A
10 Wheel (10) ... 10 ... group 1A
9 Hermit (9) ... 9 ... group 1B
8 Justice (8) ... 8 ... group 1B
7 Chariot (7) ... 7 ... group 1B
6 Love (6) ... 6 ... group 1A
5 Pope (5) ... 5 ... group 1B
4 Emperor (4) ... 4 ... group 1B
3 Empress (3) ... 3 ... group 1B
2 Popess (2) ... 2 ... group 1B
1 Magician ... 1 ... group 2

The difference between group 1A and 1B is the "precipice" or cliff in the foreground at the bottom of the card. See ..
It appears at six cards of group 1 (in the presented version at 0-1-6-10-12-13) and it is occasionally very difficult to see (very clear at 13 and at the most cards of group 2).
Best you take a look to see, what I'm talking about ... :-)


A clear precipice or cliff


A difficult to see precipice or cliff

In the original version 1-14 this was used at 1-6-10-11-12-13

In the Hofämterspiel the courts were used at 1-6-9-10-(11)-(12), so very similar, the tail just moved for one place.

1-6- . 10-11-12-13 ... PMB
1-6-9-10-11-12 ... Hofämter

Well, the feature of the cliff in the Milanese deck was probably not used accidental. Both decks (PMB and Hofämter) carry the memory of another deck.

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 ... court 1 - court 2 - court 3

The deck with 13 cards per suit was the most used deck of the early playing card time, at least for Johannes of Rheinfelden and he is the only early observer, that we have in this matter.

In such a suit 5 cards offer to be painted with special attention (1-10-11-12-13).
5 cards you need to present the 5 different chess officers, 8 cards (2-9) you need to present the Cessolis professions.

The Hofämterspiel is a reduced and modified version of the 5x13 original, the 14 special cards of PMB have enlarged the concept (and also modified it), but both have a common base, which both decks "remember".

Now, curiously, both newer decks unite in the idea, that the "6" presents the 2-9 (or 2-8) series and both present a "female" version at this place: the Hofämterspiel has the 6 as "Jungfrauwe" and the PMB - group 1 as 6, "Love".
We have the general feature, that chess has 16 figures, but only one is a woman (Queen). As the 13 suit cards present 5 elements for the officers and 8 for the pawns. If we assume

13 King
12 Queen
11 Bishop (unknown additional court card)
10 upper Marshall = Knight
2-9 makes 8 pawns
1 lower Marshall = Rook

... then this seems to present an original version.

If we look at the presentation at a chess board, we see, ...

1 - 10 -11-13-12-11- 10 - 1
2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9

... that card Nr. 6 becomes the Queen's pawn. Also 6 is a "half Queen" (Queen = "12"). Also the sum of 2-9 = 35, so nearly 6x6=36. And 2x3=6, somehow the "lowest" multiplication of different numbers, already used by Pythagoreans as "marriage".

Somehow one of these definitions wandered through playing card history and caused the observed similarity between Hofämterspiel and PMB-group-1.

Now: Which was the thinking model of PMB-1A and PMB 1B ?

Cards 1-6-10-11-12-13 in the PMB have - astonishingly - "dangerous" content:

1 - Magician, somehow the "player"
6 - Love, a "dangerous" matter
10 - luck or wreck
11 - Stupidity
12 - Traitor
13 - Death

In contrast to this the other 8 positions are relatively "safe":

2 - Popess
3 - Empress
4 - Emperor
5 - Pope
7 - Triumph (with horses)
8 - Justice (with knight in background)
9 - Hermit (a well-clothed hermit, not a suffering cripple)
14 - Judgment (all ends in heaven)

In my opinion the two groups 1A and 1B present two different versions of chess, a "bad one" and a good "one".

The bad chess:

King ... the Magician, the "player"
Queen ... his wife, Lady Fortune
Bishop ... Death
... (the bishop was in contemporary chess occasionally interpreted as bow-man; this death has a bow)
Knight ... a Fool with a baton, wrecked clothed (Stupidity)
Rook ... Hanging Man ... the Traitor, hangs from "above" (above associates Tower = Rook)
Pawns ... Love, as discussed before

There is another "bad" Chess recognizable in the 8 court cards used in a deck described by Master Ingold 1432:
"Nun sind auf dem kartenspil fier küng mit iren wauppen, und hat ieglicher under im XIII karten, das macht an ainer sum LII, und hat ieglichü das zaychen irs küngs. Etlich kartenspil hat dar zu fier küngin und fier junkfrawen, etlich haben den ackerman, den edelman, den wuchrer, den pfaffen, die toypel, den riffian, den wirt; und gewint ie ains dem andern ab: dem edelman der wuchrer, dem wuchrer der pfaff, dem pfaffen das täppelweib, dem täppelweib der riffian, dem riffian der wirt, dem wirt der weinman, dem weinman wider umb der pauman der den wein pauwen sol, der nimpt das gelt wider von dem wirt."
The first part describes, that the card game has 4 kings and 52 cards. Then he indicates, that there are cards
with kings, queens and "junkfrawen" as court cards and then he describes a deck, which has ...

* edelman = noble man
* wuchrer = man who lends money
* Pfaff = name for a priest with a "negative touch" in German language
* "toypel" and "täppelweib" = likely a woman who sells sex for money
* riffian = the male protector of the Toypel, who takes money from her
* wirt = innhouse-keeper
* weinman = man, who sells vine
* "ackerman" = farmer, identical to "pauman der den wein pauwen soll" = "Bauer = farmer", who shall plant the vine

... probably presenting as Ober and Unter the role of trumps in the game, and the edelman is lowest and the ackerman/pauman is highest. The "Toypel" has the role of the Queen, the "Riffian" the role of the King, and the whole deck idea presents a sarcastic irony about the momentary state of the world (and is as such attacked by the religious Master Ingold).

see also:

The other 8 cards (group 1B) present the Good Chess

* King Rook ... Father Time with an hourglass (as Tower ?)
* King Knight ... Justice with a knight on horse in the background
* King Bishop ... Pope
* King ... Emperor
* Queen ... Empress
* Queen Bishop ... Popess
* Queen Knight ... Chariot: woman at triumphal chariot with horses
* Queen Tower ... Judgment, indicating with trumpet the Elephant figure, from "above" (Tower symbol)
... (the Elephant figure seems to have been used in Italy - at least occasionally - as a rook and not as a bishop)

With this diversion between the 8 good and 6 bad cards it was possible to reduce the 70 cards deck to a 64-cards deck, if it was necessary in the intention of the players.

Generally the Trionfi card development started ca. 1440 with the exception of the Michelino deck, which is ca. 1425. However, socalled "Imperatori" existed around this time and possibly also additional Karnöffel cards (which included at least the figures Emperor, Pope and Devil) ... the Imperatori cards were (at least in the one example, that we know) connected to the number "8", probably developing from the basic 4x13-structure (52 cards) with the interpretation, that the kings reigned in the suits and the other court cards (Ober and Unter in usual military dress or otherwise) worked as trumps. In other experiments 8 additional trumps might have been used to reach from a usual Italian 56-card-game the card number 64 ... as we see it, if we add the 56 small arcana in the PMB deck to the 8 good chess trumps.

Generally we've to expect a lot of more creative attempts in this time than decks, that we really know of. Some of these decks might have been so obscure, that we would have really difficulties to understand them, so for instance Murner's deck of 1507 looks really like a brain-killer and it is even difficult to understand, if you've complete information.

A look at the court cards in the small arcana in the PMB:

All Kings and Queens use a solid platform, as we see it for Emperor-Empress-Pope-Popess ... if we would like to reduce the court cards and trumps to this feature, we would have a usual 4x13 deck. None of the knights and pages has it.



The precipice or cliff is recognizable at 1 of the knights (knights of baton) and at 3 of the pages. The page of coins has it not (this said on the base of not totally perfect pictures). Why ever they did it this way, it's their mystery.
But judging it from the content, it says, that a knight with loving heart (cups) or with money (coins) or with a sword (sword) is not in danger, but a knight, who tries to fight only with a baton, would be. The foot soldiers (pages) however, are always in danger, but not, if they have some money. So a rather practical view of life.



From another view we would have between 24 court cards of an assumed 64-cards-deck (without the 6 dangerous cards).

12 with solid bottom
8 without precipice
4 with precipice

so somehow arranged towards a logic based on "4"

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century

Fine Huck!!! Formidable.

In the line risk - insurance, perhaps a link with the notion of chess as a confrontation between good and evil.

"Oh man, the Devil plays chess with you, and try to catch you, and give checkmate on that point [when you're about to die]. If you pass that point, you've won everything, but if you lose, you have not achieved anything. Therefore, do not lose sight of that checkmate and always think of death, if you're not prepared at this point, you've lost everything you have done in this life. "

Savonarola, Girolamo. Predicha dell’arte del ben morire. En Prediche del reverendo padre fra Gieronimo da Ferrara per tutto l’anno nuovamente con soma diligentia ricorretto. s.n., 1540. Biblioteca Estatal de Baviera. Pág. 379.

Another example you know:

Pictor. ... _chess.jpg
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century

The following is about the earliest note of Courier chess, which appears in the "Wigalois" of Wirnt von Grafenberg and was written according different estimations 1202 - 1220 from a person born in the Northern region from Nurremberg. It leads to some side researches, as I try to understand something ...

13 complete manuscripts of the poem (11 paper and 2 vellum codices) and 34 fragments are preserved, establishing the Wigalois epic as the second most widely circulated medieval Arthurian romance, after Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parcival. Other than our manuscript only one further copy of the poem was illustrated (Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, cod. Ltk. 537, dated 1372).
The picture is "illustrated by the circle of the Workshop of 1418 and of Diebold Lauber. Alsace, c. 1420/1430." The remarkable matter on it might be the shield, which shows a wheel. Wigalois is "Vigolis vom Rade" (Vigolis from the wheel), also I saw remarked, that this wheel is the Fortune's wheel, although I couldn't verify, if this is original or a later interpretation.

Well, it's an Arthurian story and the author took at least some material from French sources. Wigalois is a son of the much better known Gawain, and later he is educated by Gawain, but in this period Wigalois doesn't know, that Gawain is his father and Gawain knows not, that Wigalois is his son.
According a German analysis the story evolves in 4 blocks:

1. Story of the father Gawain, who had married Florin, niece of a king Joram in a fairyland, but left Florin pregnant returning to Arthur's court. Wigalois is born and as a grown-up makes his attempt to search his father. At Arthur's court he becomes a knight. A female messenger Neraja arrives, and tells from problem of the Queen Larie. Wigalois wants this adventure from Arthur and gets it, while Neraja is unlucky to get a not experienced knight.

2. Wigalois has to survive some smaller adventures before reaching Roimunt, the place of Larie. Wigalois kills an innkeeper (1) and frees a lady from the hand of two giants (2). He captures a small dog, presents it to Neraja and kills the owner of the dog (3). The biggest part is a fight against the red knight Hoyer van Mansfeld for the honor of a Persian princess Elamie, who was cheated for a price in a beauty contest (4). Finally he wins the fight with a King Schaffilun, who also wished to fulfill the adventure personally (5).

3. This is the biggest part of the story: Wigalois shall free the kingdom Korntin from the hands of a pagan usurpator, Roaz, winning it back for the true Queen Larie. If he reaches this result, he will get the hand of Larie. Wiglois gets weapons of sorcery, between them the shield above (the wheel shield). He fights against a dragon Pfetan and finally against Roaz and he wins the fights. Korntin is a free country again.

4. Wigalois marries Larie, but at the wedding a herold appears, who reports, that a guest of the wedding was killed near Namur. Wigalois starts a campaign against the king of Namur (in this context the word chess is mentioned - very short). After the win Wigalois gives the city Namur a new administrator.
Wigalois and Larie make a visit to the court of Arthur (in this context the courier game, actually "kurrier", is mentioned), then return in their kingdom and live a happy life. Larie gets a son, Lifort Gawanides, who later will become a great hero (the author has plans with a prolongation of the story, but this story is never written).

Interestingly persons with the name Hoyer von Mansfeld existed in the form of Hoyer I., II., III. IV., four generations starting ca. 1050 and ending begin of 13th century, so in the time, when the poem was written, and indeed the city and the counts have "red" in their heraldry.
The city Mansfeld is ca. 40 km distance of Quedlinburg ... the latter a small location today with 20.000 inhabitants, but a great place of the early German Empire, where Emperor Otto I. received great guests, especially in the year 973 at a famous Reichstag. Theaphanu, Byzantine princess, was there and she married Otto II., son of the Emperor, now her bones are in St. Pantaleon, here in Cologne.
It was the Eastern residence of the Empire long years, in the period 10-12th century there are recorded 69 visits of German Emperors or Kings.

Henry I the Fowler, Otto's father, was buried there (936) and his wife Mathilda founded a Damenstift, which played a dominant role, with Mathilda living till 968.

Otto I. and chess ....
... Einsiedeln abbey, founded by Otto 934, giving more rights in 947 and further more in 965 ... ... 22&f=false
... "Controlling one of the crossings to Italy, Einsiedeln became one of the most privileged royal monasteries of the 10th century, as well as an active centre of monastic reform up to the 11th century. It's scriptorium were developed by Wolfgang (964-971), future bishop of Regensburg. The abbey declined the 13th century."

Text of Versus de scachis, given to the year 997

Versus de scachis is a Medieval Latin poem about chess. It is found on two manuscripts from Einsiedeln: MS Einsidlensis 365 and MS Einsidlensis 309. A copy of the poem in manuscript 319 at Stiftsbibliothek Einsiedeln has been given the estimated date of 997 CE. If this date is accurate it makes the work the earliest known reference to chess in a European text.

There is Otto I. and his family and their presence in Einsiedeln and in Theophanu, a Byzantine princess, who imported Eastern culture to middle Europe, and a first Chess manuscript in Einsiedeln, though the origin of European chess development is not clear ... with some right, probably there was not only way, how chess reached Europe.

... and there is Ströbeck, located ca. 25 km to Quedlinburg and Ströbeck has some facts and a legend and some of the facts and the legends touch the riddle of the Courier chess (or "kurrier") and this is a nice article and I beg you to read it:
"Ströbeck itself was built around 995 AD when Otto II donated some land to the monastery in Drübeck ...
In the year 1011, a Slavic nobleman by the name of Duke Gruncelin who was Wendish (The Wends was a tribe Slavic people who lived in Spreewald, a region northeast of Dresden and southeast of Berlin - another story mentions Prince Kunzelin of Meissen.) placed under arrest in the stone tower of Ströbeck by order of Heinrich II of Germany. He was an educated man and the prison life was a boring existence. To pass the time (and legend has it, to earn his freedom) he fashioned a crude board with chaulk and pieces he whittled from wood and taught his guards a game that he used to play at court called Schach. Of course it was a medieval version of the game whose rules differed from today's game of chess. Still, the game, which at that time was reserved for royalty and clerics, caught on as the guards taught it to their friends and family. The entire town seemed to enjoy the game and even taught it to travelers passing through."
"In the 17th century civil servants from the Electorate of Brandenburg would come to Ströbeck to play against the villagers for the state taxes. The villagers regularly won, and were thus exempted from paying taxes. The Great Elector was amazed that his civil servants regularly lost to the villagers. The chronicle records that on 13 May 1651 he came to Ströbeck in person and sat down with the peasants, at the chess board in an open field in accordance with the old custom. The ambition of the villagers was spurred on by this royal visit and they refused to give in even to their ruler. The game ended in favour of the villagers. In a gesture of recognition, the Elector [Prince Frederick William of Brandenburg] gave them a precious chess set which can be seen today in the museum ( The board measures 12 by 8 squares, and features the addition of three pieces: the sage, the jester, and the courier - this is commonly referred to as Courier Chess )".
To this comes ...
... that Gustavus Selenus (really Augustus the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, living 1579 - 1666) ...


... in 1616 wrote a book about chess (called first German language chess book ... 500 pages), in which he described, that the Courier chess was played in Ströbeck in his time. Selenus had from 1604-1635 (in this time he wrote the book) only the small domain Hitzacker (distance Hitzacker-Ströbeck 200 km), but his original location Braunschweig (Braunschweig-Ströbeck 60 km) was near enough to be aware, what happened in Ströbeck.

The book is described here ...
... in German. Generally Selenus became a book-collector and had at his death 135.000 books and his library was called an 8th wonder of the world.
Actually I would like to find a view on the original text, as it is said, that Selenus described 3 different chess versions from Stroebeck ... no luck.

But I found this visit to Stroebeck in 1831 by an English writer ... ck&f=false


May this be, as it is, we're back at the Wigalois and the "red knight Hoyan of Mansfeld", who astonishingly lived near Quedlinburg and also Ströbeck.

Here's a map:

... and roughly analyzed you may note, that ...

Ströberg (Chess village) it's ..

ca. 25 km to Quedlinburg (Imperial Easter residence) and from Quedlinburg it's ...
180 km to Eisenach / Wartburg (center of German poetry) and from Eisenach it's ...
180 km to Gräfenberg (birth place of Wirth von Grafenberg - author of Wigalois) and from Gräfenberg it's ...
25 km to Nurremberg (a famous city known for games) and from Nurremberg it's ...
400 km to Stein am Rhein (location of Kunrat of Ammenhausen)

and in Stein am Rhein the most popular Cessolis translator and chess author Kunrath von Ammenhausen declared ca. 1337, that he only once saw a Courier play.

But in the Wigalois the author Wirnt von Grafenberg mentions ...

"wurfzabel unde kurrier
gewoeht von helfenbeine"

..., so tables games and Kurrier (= Courier game) made from ivory, but NOT CHESS ... and that looks astonishing. It reads, as if in this Northern-East region of Germany around 1200 ... which never was ruled by the Romans ... the Courier chess was more popular than the common chess on the 8x8 board.

Totally the passage reads ...

"dâ lâgen vor der frouwen fier,
wurfzabel unde kurrier
gewoeht von helfenbeine ;
mit edelen gesteine
spilten sie, mit holze niht
als man nu frouwen spilen siht.
Sie heten kurzewile vil
von maniger hande seite spiel
dax die frowen kunden."

The passage is dominated by frouwen (women) and they have rather noble figures in the poem, not from wood, as more modern women seem to play. They amuse very well (kurzewile vil) and there is some music, played by the women, so actually a nice party.
The passage is near at the end and somehow near to final celebrations.

Chess is mentioned in the book, but only as part of a war situation, not as a game: ... q=&f=false
page 365
"Her Wigalois do sinen boten
Mit dem garzune sande dar.
Von im und von den fursten gar
Widerbot er in die stat
Lion dem fursten wurde mat,
Mohter, nach sinem Schache getan."

actually as a war declaration against the king Lion of Namur

I need a pause (more later)

(in work)

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century

I got in discussions, if it's proven, that the Courier in the German Courier chess is really given as unlimited bishop. And it's true, that this isn't proven till 1616 by Gustavus Selenus.

But researching this, I detected, that I nearly overlooked completely Acedrex, a further Spanish variant given by Alfonso and in my counting now the 3rd Great Chess in Europe. A chess with 12x12-board, the pawns rather advanced at begin at the 4th row and the moves rather quick ... see

"The crocodile moves as a modern bishop. " Well, would be nice to see the original and a translation. But in this case it seems clear, that the modern bishop existed in Europe long before.

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century

This unusual chess board on a picture of Francesco di Giorgio Martini ...

... has, as it seems, 8x14 fields (counted at the right and lower side - the left side is partly hidden by the arm of the young man).

8x14 = 112, the same number of the fields as on the Tamerlane chess board.

Francesco was also engaged to organize festivities. ... io&f=false

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century


Intarsien (marqueterie) work in the studiolo of Montefeltro in Urbino ...
... the interesting object is the checkered ring with (I tried to count them from this picture, hopefully I'm not wrong) with 32x8 fields.

At least modern chess variants know the version how to play "without left and right border" (a figure, which leaves the chess board at the right side, enters the left side). ... :-) ... One can (and should) play this game in 2D-modus, ... :-) ... using the upper ring would need magnetic figures and a cord to hang it somewhere. But the ring might be a visualisation of this game idea.
The dimension of the board are astronomic, so it might be rather difficult to play a game till its end.

If you attempt to research the object: Montefeltro had two studioli, one in Urbino and another in Gubbio, both with marqueterie.

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century


Murderous chess board scene ...

Interestingly the board right has a 8x10 grid, the board left an 8x9-grid and the ground of room seems to be covered with 5x5-boards.
I searched longer time for a dating of the picture and finally found this ... I'm not sure, that this is correct.
Manuel du jeu d'échecs
Manuscrit ayant appartenu à Charles V. Parchemin, 135 ff.
(23 x 16 cm). France, XIVe siècle


This board (unknown origin) shows a 7x7 structure.

Re: Chess variants 14th/15th century

Letter from Filippo Maria Visconti, 25th of November 1427, installing a Chess and Table salon probably at the ducal palace Arengo "near the Cathedral" in Milan in a sort of official act ("Franciscus" at the end of the letter likely refers to the writer).

The letter was published for an exhibition in 1957. Franco Pratesi reported it to Edizione Scacco S.a.s in June 1993, anno 24, numero 6, p. 298-299. At the end of the article Franco reports an event with a master chess player at 8th of June, 1429.


Dux Mediolani etc. Papie Anglerieque comes ac Ianue dominus. De fide et sufitientia dilecti nostri Socini de Seregnio ad nutrituram cantantum avicularum nostrarum deputati confidentis, eundem Socinum offitialem et custodem pusterle Nove syte intus portam Novam et per portam Horientalem huius urbis Mediolanum huius urbis Mediolani et ulterius tabulleriorum quorumcum tam videlicet a schachis quam a tabullis que in curia nostra Arengi teneri consueverunt, ita quod nemini liceat in dicta curia ludere ad schachos nec ad tabullas sine sui licentia nec consensu cum auctoritate, balia, arbitrio, salario, utilitatibus, commoditabibus et prerogativis ordinatis et huiusmodi officii legiptime spectantibus et pertinentibus ac per Comasinum de Catis nuper defunctum, qui dictum presidebat offitium, licite habitis et perceptis a die obitus ipsius Comasini in antea usque ad beneplacitum nostrum harum serie constituemus, deputamus et facimus, mandantes universis et singulis ad quos spectat possitque spectare quatenus dictum Socinum in possessionem dicti offitii ponant et inducant positumque manuteneant et deffendant sibique ad ipsum exercendum offitium auxilium prebeant et faverem necmimus de dictis salario, utilitatibus, comoditatibus et prerogativis cum integritate respondant et fatiant responderi et quia dictus Socinus habens cure avicularum nostrarum et aliis servitiis nobis gratis intendere dictum offitium personaliter exercere non possit, contentamur dictoque Socino concedimus ut loco sui deputare possit (?)ad(?)que deputet personam idoneam que dictum offitium exerceat loco sui. In quorum testimonium presentes fieri et registrari iussimus nostrique sigilli munimime roborari . Datum mediolani, die xx quinto novembri MCCCC vigesimoseptimo, sexta indictione.


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