Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The First Great Mind Sportsman: As-Suli (854-946AD)

The Birth of Mind Sports

Since the dawn of civilisation, some 10,000 years ago, history has recorded that men and women have been games players. The earliest writings of ancient civilisations regularly make reference to games similar in concept to tic-tac-toe (naughts and crosses). Something like Draughts was played in Ancient Egypt and Go was referred to in Chinese texts of about 1000BC as a game that any reader would know.

Chess is said to have originated in India around 600AD under the name Chaturanga, a word describing the four traditional army units of Indian military forces: foot soldiers (pawns); cavalry (knights); chariots (rooks) and elephants (today’s bishops). Since the 1970s however, more and more weight has been given to the idea that China already had a version of chess before India. There were mentions of Xiang Qi (Chinese Chess) in documents during the Warring States’ period (403-221BC).

Confucius is said to have known Go. To Plato, games were a vital part of a leader’s training.

Board games have been portrayed by artists through the centuries, from Ancient Greece and Rome to the illuminated manuscripts of medieval monks and the modern art of Ernst and Duchamp. To all of them, the games had a mystical significance.

Old and new, however, they share one element: the power to hone the mind.

The First Great Mind Sportsman: As-Suli (854-946AD)

Mind Sports play a vital part in the lives of many geniuses.

For example, As-Suli, the first Chess Grandmaster from the Baghdad of the Caliphs, can be seen as a symbol of the great Islamic culture that flourished in Baghdad, possessing great qualities of mind, thought and intellect at a time when Europe, itself, was plunged in the Dark Ages and much of the world was in chaos. This was a pinnacle of sophistication and culture not to be attained by others for many centuries.

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