Wednesday 1 July 2020

Why does the Knight move like that?

As mentioned previously on this blog, I am currently working on a book about the history of the Laws of Chess. It is a joint effort, with IA Stewart Reuben and IA Alex McFarlane  also involved.
One question put to me by one of the players at Street Chess the other day was "Why does the Knight move in an L shape?" I actually had no idea, but during an online meeting with Stewart and Alex last night, Alex was able to give a pretty strong explanation.
The movement of the pieces in modern chess are based on their movements in Shatranj However, in Shatranj, the mobility of pieces were a lot more limited. The Fers (the modern day Queen), could only move one square diagonally. The Elephant (the modern day Bishop) could move 2 squares diagonally, jumping over the intervening square. The movements of the Rook and King were the same as they are now. If you placed a piece on the centre of a 5x5 grid, each square was reachable by at least one of these pieces, with the exception of 8 squares, which as it turned out, was an "L" shape away from the centre. Therefore the Knight was the piece that filled in those gaps.

1 comment:

siow, weng nian said...

In chinese chess, the "horse" moves in same manner except there is an extra restriction. I don't know which is older, chinese chess, shatranj or other chess-like antecedents. But you may wish to check it out.