Understanding before Moving 119: Chess history in a nutshell (1)

by ChessBase
4/2/2023 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books about chess training and chess strategy. In the 119th instalment of his ChessBase show "Understanding before Moving", Herman starts a new series: "Chess history in a nutshell". | Photo: Pascal Simon

Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2 Key Concepts of Chess - Pawn Structures Vol.1 and 2

In this two-part course the emphasis will be on typical pawn-structures.


After dealing with the Sicilian in detail, we now come to a completely new series. Having written a series of articles about chess history on the Dutch-language website www.schaaksite.nl I now want to use these articles as the basis for a new series of chess videos, which I have called "Chess History in a Nutshell".

In these video series I will go a little further than in my series of articles. Since a lot has been written about chess history, I try to add an important educational element. Where possible I try to make the connection between what the old masters created for beauty and what we see of it in later periods or in modern chess.

I hope that chess students will be delighted to see certain themes from the past reflected in contemporary (grandmaster) practice. It is precisely through pattern recognition that chess players will be able to benefit in their own games.

In this first episode we talk about the origins of chess. To this day it is not known exactly when the game originated. However, the starting point was the reenactment of a battle between two Indian armies, but without physical violence. Such a game is in line with Buddhist thought and was mainly played by monks.

The pieces were formed by analogy with the Indian army, which was divided into foot soldiers, cavalry, elephants and chariots. The role of the number "8" in chess is striking. A horizontal "8" is the symbol for 'infinity' in mathematics and there are an 'infinite' number of possibilities in chess. The chess board has 8x8 squares, the 'army' consists of 8 pieces and 8 pawns, and the king and knight can each cover a maximum of 8 squares.

The time-honoured "Indian Problem" (see diagram below) is a famous chess problem: It is White to move and mate in three moves. The solution is nothing short of astonishing.

Black threatens to stalemate himself with ...b5-b4, and if White has to release the pin of the knight, he will not be able to mate his opponent in three moves.

It should be noted that the problem was composed in 1845 by Loveday, who added a black pawn on b6 to the position and asked White to mate in four. However, this modification turned out to have too many duals (as they call them), hence the modification by me. The winning idea is wonderful - can you solve the Indian problem?


Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors how to successfully organise your games strategically, and how to keep your opponent permanently under pressure.

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