Some notes to Alfonso's chess book ... as given translated in a download-option here ...http://www.mediafire.com/?nenjj1dimtd
I earlier talked already about Alfonso's chess book
(partly here: viewtopic.php?f=11&t=460
These are just selected excerpts:
Arguments for a board with 8x8 squares ... which indirectly tells, that Alfonso knew also about other versions of chess.
And there are other games of many kinds but all were made to resemble the things that
happened according to the times that were, are or could be showing how kings in time of wars
when armies are made are to make war on their enemies fighting to conquer them, by capturing
them and killing them or throwing them off the land. And also as in the time of peace they are to
show their treasures and their riches and the noble and strange things that they have. And
according to this they made games. Some with twelve squares (per side), others with ten, others
with eight, others with six and others with four. And thus they continued descending down to
just one square, which they divided into eight parts.1 And all this they did because of the great
similarities according to the ancient knowledge, which the wise men used.
But among all the other games, they chose as best and most in common the one with the eight
squares because it is not so slow as the one with ten or more nor is it as hurried as the one of six
or fewer. And therefore men commonly use it [f. 3] in all lands, more than the other games. And
the figure of the board is that it is to be square and it is to have eight horizontal ranks and in each
flank eight squares which are in all sixty-four squares. And half of the squares are to be of one
colour and the other half of another and likewise the pieces.
The figure at the Queen-position is called fers (or Alfferez) or fersa (Allferza). The figure is interpreted as a standard bearer.
And of the other pieces which are greater one resembles the king, who is the lord of the army and
he should be in one of the two middle squares.
And next to him in the other middle square, is another piece which resembles the fers (alfferez)
who carries the standard of the king’s colours. And there are some men who do not know the
name and call him “fersa” (alfferza).3 And these two pieces each one plays alone and does not
have another in all the sixteen pieces that resembles them.
Footnote 3: While this passage attempts to fix the "castellano drecho" term for the fers, the so-called incorrect latter term is the one used throughout the rest of the ms.
This explains the movement of the fers ... which is somehow complicated, especially in the first move of the fers, which seem to be an early castling method (observe footnotes).
The fers moves one square diagonally and this is in order to guard the king and not leave his side
and to shield him from the checks and checkmates when they are given to him and in order to go
forward helping him to win when the game comes out well.
But he can also on his first move jump to the second4 straight or diagonal square and even if
another piece is in between. And this is in the manner of a good captain who charges ahead in
great feats and battles and rushes everywhere they need him. And in this movement he joins
forces with his foot soldiers and becomes one with them as if forcing them not to leave his side
and to be as one in order to do the best thing and thus he guards himself and them, having some
before him and standing before the others. And therefore when the fers is thus joined with the
pawns, they call it flanked.5
4 The original uses the word for third, which counts the square from which the piece begins as the first.
5 Alf(f)erzada refers the triangular position of reciprocal protection created by a fers diagonally in front of two pawns. I have chosen to translate the alf(f)erzada position like the alf(f)ilada position as flank(ed) due to their resemblance to this type of military support.
So it seems, that the Fers could move 1-step diagonally (usually), but with its first move he could also jump 2 steps diagonal and vertical (also horizontal ?). It seems, that the fers could move to the position of a pawn, similar to this position (Queen and pawn united ... source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_assize
"he guards himself and them" ... It seems, that both figures together at one square couldn't be attacked, and that this formation would have a similar defensive game value as the modern castling (another possible interpretation would be, that any attack of one of the both figures would result in an automatic loss of the attacking figure.
For the basic start formation of the 16 figures Alfonso thinks of the usual 1st and 2nd horizontal line, not of the 1st and 3rd line, as the above "short-assis" position indicates (this is clear by the accompanying pictures).
The fers is considered to be stronger than the fils [= elephants (= bishops), which can only jump 2 steps in each diagonal direction].
The fers also has great advantage because it guards the king more closely than the other pieces
and it is better than the fils because it has more squares in which it can move and capture than
they. And also it guards and captures forwards and back, which the pawns cannot do even if a
flank is made with them, as is described above.
Chess with the use of dice:
And these movements should be known by all those who wish to play chess well because
without this they could not know how to do it nor understand the chess problems that men
desire to know because of the annoyance given them from the lengthiness of the regular game
when it is played out completely. Also they established for that reason the use of dice in chess so
that it could be played more quickly.
And they assigned the six, which is the highest roll of the die, to the king, which is the most
honored piece on the board. And the five to the fers. And the four to the rook. And the three to
the knight. And the two, to the fil. And the one, which they call ace, to the pawn.
They rolled the die to decide, which sort of figure should be moved (which reduces the possibilities considerably and invents a factor of luck).
By this additional die rule we get the result, that numbers are connected to chess figures. If we transport this to the known numerology of Tarot cards, we would get ..
Pawn = 1 = Bateleur
Bishop = 2 = Popess
Knight = 3 = Empress
Rook = 4 = Emperor
Fers = 5 = Pope
King = 6 = Love
If we would now integrate Petrarca's Trionfi poem (14th century) as a mediator between Chess with die (13th century) and Trionfi-Tarocchi cards (15th century), we would get ...
1 - Pawn - Love (Amor) - Bateleur
2 - Bishop - Chastity - Popess
3 - Knight - Death - Empress
4 - Rook - Fame - Emperor
5 - Fers - Time - Pope
6 - King - Eternity (Love of Jesus) - Love
In the 4 finishing cards of the PMB-deck in the version of the first deck we have ...
11 - Fool
12 - Hanging Man
13 - Death
14 - Judgment
If we add this to the above grouping, we get (number, chess figure, Trionfi poem, Tarocchi cards, upper cards of PMB)
1 - Pawn - Love (Amor) - Bateleur ... 11 Fool
2 - Bishop - Chastity - Popess ... 12 Hanging Man
3 - Knight - Death - Empress ... 13 Death
4 - Rook - Fame - Emperor ... 14 Judgment
5 - Fers - Time - Pope
6 - King - Eternity (Love of Jesus) - Love
A confirmation, that chess was played in Alfonso's time in many ways:
And because the games of chess are differentiated in many ways and problems are even made
out of them, there are some in which take all the pieces are used and in others only some of them,
we wish to talk to you here first of the game which is played with the all the pieces together and
we will show how the board is made and the fashionings of the pieces. However those which are
made best and most completely are to be made in this manner:
The King should be on his chair with his crown on his head and the sword in his hand as if he
were judging or ordering justice to be done.
The fers should be made in the manner of the highest standard bearer of the King who carries the
standard of the colours of the King when they are to enter into battles.
The fils are to be made in the manner of elephants with castles on top of them full of armed men,
as if wanting to fight.
The knights are to be made in the manner of armed knights, like captains who are placed by
order of the king to lead the ranks.
The rooks should be made like the ranks of armed soldiers which are very broad, holding on to
The pawns are to be made in the manner of common people who are armed and outfitted when
they want to fight.
But since in all the lands that play chess they would be very difficult to make, such pieces as
these, men sought out a way in which they could be made more easily and with less cost, but that
they should resemble in some small way those which we describe. And the figure of those which
is the most used in all the lands, and especially in Spain, is that which is painted here.
A chess variant, which is called "forced" or "game of the damsels"
And we wish next to tell of the game which they call forced. And this is because even though it
may be played according to each player’s will, in it there is also to be an element of force because
a man goes against his will losing his best piece to his opponent’s worst, willing or not by putting
it on a square where the other is forced to capture it, according to the movement of the piece
against which it is put. And this game is arranged just the same as the first and the pieces move
and capture each other in that same way except that there is in addition the forced capture. And
therefore those that play it are to be knowledgeable so that they do not put their best pieces in a
position where they are to give them up to lesser and more lowly pieces. Because in this lies all
the wisdom of this game and its play. And because of this force which we described, they call it
the forced game. But because some tell that the damsels first invented it overseas, they call it the
game of the damsels.
This is of special interest, as the later Tarot card games differed from other trump card games, that trumping was "forced" (you MUST capture, if you can) ... as in the chess game of the damsels. "invented it overseas" likely meant, that this version developed in England (?).
The following is not clear:
The fil (= bishop) can move and capture in six squares (13) of the board, counting its own, and no more.
Footnote 13: 13 This is an error in the LJ; the fil can move to eight squares counting its own starting square. For example, a fil at c1 can also move to a3, e3, g1, c5, a7, g5 and e7.
Naturally it looks like an error. But it also might be, that this figure was limited to the rows 1, 3 and 5 and not allowed to enter the 7th row (which might have been considered "foreign territory" and under this condition they would have only six fields, but the writer would have forgotten to tell about this specific rule). The bishop was often seen as an archer, and archer fought from the distance and had no value in close fight (this might have be the ideological background).
In Xiangqi (Chinese chess) two figures know such regional limitations ... the Mandarin (similar to fers and queen) may not leave the palace (3x3 square), and the Elephant (similar to fil and bishop) may not cross the river (= in the middle). The name Xiangqi is interpreted as "game of the elephants". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiangqi