- CHESS - MERRILS
of the most popular board games during the Middle Ages were chess
and tric-trac, which we now call backgammon. Playing boards could
be simple but most of those which have survived today show elaborate
inlaid panels or painted boards and pieces which were skillfully
carved. Merrils or Nine Man's Morris was also played but these
do not seem to have been afforded the same level of workmanship
with either boards or playing pieces.
Shown at left is a painted and inlaid tric-trac board with gold
gilding and rose-and-lily central design. The board itself is
hinged but does not have a designated area for bearing off at
the end of the game. Unlike cards, this was a game which could
be played by ladies.
was a game which was also popular with female nobility and women
in the upper classes, and pieces were carved out of materials
which ranged from simple wood to bone and ivory. Naturally, ivory
chess sets were exclusively the domain of the wealthy.
Shown at right is a common bone chess set from the 14th century
from Scandinavia. It is housed in the Musée National
du Moyen-Âge, in Cluny, France.
The rules for medieval chess were
mostly similar to those which we have today, with only a few variations.
The pieces moved as follows:
- The king moved as normal.
- The rook moved as normal.
- The knight moved as normal.
- The pawns only traveled one square, even on the first move.
- The bishops moved diagonally only two squares but could jump
- The queen moved diagonally only, and one square at a time.
- Stalemate and Checkmate were the same as today.
- Baremate also existed if a king was left with no pieces.