- 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
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 other
- 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.