Turkish chessmen

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Anthony Appleyard
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Joined: Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:18 am

Turkish chessmen

Post by Anthony Appleyard » Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:37 am

I have a book about chess, and it says that in Turkey pictorial chessmen are now made whose appearance refers to the Arabic names for the chessmen, and it has a photograph showing:-

King - top half of a sultan or shah with a big jewelled turban

Queen - top half of a man wearing a big fez (i.e. a vizier, not a queen)

Bishop - elephant

Pawn - obelisk shape, not human or animal

But the photograph does not show a knight or a rook. What do Turkish pictorial knights and rooks look like? Does the horse have a rider? Does the rook show a chariot, or what?

Gordon Cadden
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Re: Turkish chessmen

Post by Gordon Cadden » Sun Sep 29, 2013 12:16 pm

Philidor had a problem with the Turkish chess pieces, losing six games in a row, when he visited the Turkish Ambassadors residence. The Sunnite chess pieces can be difficult to distinguish, one from the other.
Chess was played in Persia and Turkey, long before it reached European Countries.

David Robertson
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Re: Turkish chessmen

Post by David Robertson » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:39 pm

The Turkish for knight is at which means 'horse'. The Turkish for rook is kale, meaning 'castle/fortress'. No reason to assume they'll look any different from what you'd expect. Both Turkish terms appear restricted to the immediate region with a small overspill in the case of kale into the Balkan Slavic languages of the old Ottoman Empire.

The case of bishop/elephant is different. The base term, 'elephant', is from the Arabic al fil. This migrates directly into Spanish (alfil) and Italian (alfiere); and by translation, into Russian. But otherwise, there seems to be no consensus on describing the piece.

++caution: this much I know. Others may know (a lot) more. Just trying to help

Anthony Appleyard
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:18 am

Re: Turkish chessmen

Post by Anthony Appleyard » Sat Apr 12, 2014 10:05 pm

David Robertson wrote: ... The case of bishop/elephant is different. The base term, 'elephant', is from the Arabic al fil. This migrates directly into Spanish (alfil) and Italian (alfiere); and by translation, into Russian. But otherwise, there seems to be no consensus on describing the piece. ...
The word "al fīl" got from Arabic into Spanish, but its meaning did not. To Europeans at the time, elephants (the animals) seem to have been nearly as remote and fabulous as dragons and unicorns, and the word "alfil" was distorted many ways by Europeans trying to give it a meaning. One common early distortion was "alfinus", from which came medieval English "aufin". Elephants in North Africa had died out in Roman times.

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