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Chess in Jewish history and Hebrew literature.

Keats, Abraham Victor; (1994) Chess in Jewish history and Hebrew literature. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to deal with the origins of chess before AD 500 with attention to the record of sources and commentaries in the Babylonian Talmud. At the same time the names of other games which could be connected with chess are analysed. It is argued that Jews played a part in the the spread of chess through the Jewish Khazars. Medieval Jewish writing on chess (primarily in Spain) demonstrate possible Jewish influence on the development of chess in the Middle Ages. Also allusions to chess in Hebrew Literature are recorded together with background material on the historical periods concerned. Among the main Sources are JEHUDAH - HA- LEVI who made one of the earliest significant European references to chess in HA- KUSARI. DISCIPLINA CLERICALIS is cited as an example of the role played by Jews in the pattern of transmission of chess to Europe in the 11th and 12th Century. Jewish literary references to chess after AD 1600, and the re-discovery of the earlier texts from the DE LUDIS ORIENTALIBUS are cited with special reference to the volume entitled SHAHLUDIUM TRADITUM in TRIBUS SCRIPTIS HEBRAICs of Thomas Hyde. The most important of these three works being the 11th Century Hebrew Rhythmic verse of Abraham - Ibn - Ezra which at such a remarkably early date contains probably the earliest Rules of chess written in Europe. This is followed by an ELEGANT ORATORIO by IBN - YEHIA. The third work, MA'ADONEH MELECH which Hyde ascribes to an anonymous author is shown to have been written by YEHUDA DI MODENA. Its rich Hebrew language is underscored with my Concordance Notations of Biblical Phraseology. This is extended by revivals of DE LUDIS ORIENTALIBUS in the (1) 18th Century German commentaries and translations by Ludimagistro and (2) in a French publication entitled DELICE ROYALE by Leon Hollanderski (1884). A chess manuscript is discovered to be by a Proselyte ABU ZACHARYA, whose writings retrieve and revive otherwise lost 9th C. Arabic chess studies and records. Chess in the MA'ASEH book, Moses Mendelsohn and Lessing's Nathan the Wise are also presented. This is followed by two of the most important Hebrew chess works of the first half of the 19th Century. The Hebrew chess Treatise by Zevi Uri Rubinstein, LIMUDEI - HA - INYANAI VE - HAMASEH-BEDARCHEI HASCHOK - HANIRA - SCHACHSPIEL is translated and explained. JACOB EICHENBAUM's 1840 Poem "HA-KRAV" is also translated and explained as based upon a game of STAMMA. Talmudic references to chess and other chess texts (one in Pahlavi) coincide as being of approximately the same period in pre-dating the assertion contained in Firdausi's mythological account of the invention of chess at the time of Chosroes I. The Talmudic word for chess suggests that the conclusion that the origin of chess is associated with the period of Alexander the Great. This argument is supported by a Vatican Library Hebrew manuscript containing an extract from SECRETUM SECRETORUM. The importance of Jewish influence upon the development of chess is underscored by important books, as landmarks in chess, History which are shown to have been written directly by Jews or "Conversos". Among these are "ALPHONSO's" LIBRO DIVERSOS DE ACEDREX, DADOS-Y-TABLAS translated by Don Zag Ibn Cid and others. However an equally important and rare volume is by LUIS DI LUCENA, who is presented as a MARRANO, the father of modern chess with a newly researched explanation of the AMORES part in REPETITION DE AMORES E ARTE DE AXEDREZ, 1497 A.D. This is provided with greater breadth by newly researched links with CELESTINA Y CALISTO and MELIBOEA.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Chess in Jewish history and Hebrew literature.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Social sciences; Chess; Hebrew literature
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10104147
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