Many countries claim to have invented the chess game in some incipient form. The most commonly held belief is that chess originated in India, where it was called Chaturanga, which appears to have been invented in the 6th century AD. Although this is commonly believed, it is thought that Persians created a more modern version of the game after the Indians. In fact, the oldest known chess pieces have been found in excavations of ancient Persian territories.
* Checkmate: This is the English rendition of shah mat, which is Persian for “the king is finished”.
* Rook: From the Persian rukh, which means “chariot”, but also means “cheek” (part of the face). The piece resembles a siege tower. It is also believed that it was named after the mythical Persian bird of great power called the roc. In India, the piece is more popularly called haathi, which means “elephant”.
* Bishop. From the Persian pil means “the elephant”, but in Europe and the western part of the Islamic world people knew little or nothing about elephants, and the name of the chessman entered Western Europe as Latin alfinus and similar, a word with no other meaning (in Spanish, for example, it evolved to the name “alfil”). This word “alfil” is actually the Arabic for “elephant” hence the Spanish word would most certainly have been taken from the Islamic provinces of Spain. The English name “bishop” is a rename inspired by the conventional shape of the piece. In Russia, the piece is, however, known as “elephant”. In the Indian lingo however, the piece is more popularly known as oont = “camel”.
* Queen. Persian farzin = “vizier” became Arabic firzan, which entered western European languages as forms such as alfferza, fers, etc but was later replaced by “queen”. Incidentally, the Indian equivalent of “queen”, rani is used for the piece by Indians.