Sunday, 9 August 2026

The new powerful dama in the origin of the draughts and modern chess game

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate you several books about the history of draughts. Please have a look on the menu for those books (in English). For example, you can also download the following book in Dutch of 1997, that has an introduction of 9 lenguages, among them the following text in English:


Until now the different scholars practically limited themselves to indicating  France  as  the  country of origin of  the  draughts game,  among  them the famous chess scholar Harold James  Ruthven Murray    is emphasized.  With respect to the new powerful dama in  the modern chess game that was developed around the end of the XV century, the situation is not much better, since the scholars of this game believe that France, as well as Italy, could be the native countries of  this  modality of the game,  in spite of the fact  that  the first chess book,  Luis Ramirez of Lucena, with such new modality dates from 1497 and is of Spanish origin .

In draughts  we see a similar situation,  since  the  first Spanish  books about the game  of draughts have a very high  level  and date from the XVI century,  while the first French book  comes from the XVII century and  the game described is a very elemental one.  Contrary to this evidence,  the scholars did not consider it  necessary to grant Spain the honour of being the  creative  country of the game of draughts and of thenew modality in the chess game  with the new dama.   How is it possible that the  different scholars never took into account the rich Spanish bibliography on both  games?   Was  it a linguistic  problem or were there  other existing circumstances that forbade this reasoning?  In the  case of  draughts,  this could be a reasonable  cause  for  the  Dutch scholars that did not master the Spanish language, but not  for  the English scholar Murray who knew several  languages,  among  them Arabic.   On the other hand,  regarding the chess game it  is difficult  to  accept  that none of  them  knew  the  Spanish language. Therefore  there had to be other motives  for them to deny that Spain could be the country of origin of the new powerful dama in chess. Whatever it may be, there can be several  motives, but happily in the last  years  we  have observed a trend of two outstanding scholars that began to modify  this point of view.

In  the case of the new powerful dama in the chess game in  Spain we rely on an outstanding chess  investigator,   Dr.  Ricardo Calvo,  who,  since  the  eighties defends Spain as being  the country of origin of the new powerful dama in the game of chess  . His   investigations  and discoveries of  ancient  written  chess manuscripts  from  the XV century make it possible to  assert  that this new property is of Spanish origin .

With  respect  to the draughts game we must not forget  to  mention Ir.  Gerard Bakker of Utrecht (Holland), who with an initial work in  1983  and another advanced one in 1987  praises  the  Spanish  origin of draughts from the alquerque and chess game.  Those were good starting points,  but still there were  remaining dark points in the solidity of this hypothesis.

This is, humbly speaking,  the purpose of this book,  to seek evidence and  to situate Spain in an outstanding place that it naturally deserves.  For  such  effect we chronologically treat  the  texts studied between 1283 and 1700, gathering more than 950 bibliographical references that can be more easily consulted by future scholars.

From 1986 we maintain the hypothesis  that the  origin of  the game of draughts is a Spanish one and to such effect we have sought answers and evidence for some 10 years.We started on the basis of the fact that the chess game reflects the royal situation of  a time.  So we can ask ourselves why the queen in the  modern chess game has more power than the king.  If we study the life of Spanish royalty in the XV century  we see that this question is not  so difficult  to answer.   There was, in 1469 a dama in Castille that was married to a future king of Aragon,  Fernando.   Some years later, in 1475, this dama, Isabel la Catóica, was crowned queen with greater effective power than her husband, Fernando. So much, so that when Spain in 1492 was released from the last  Moorish outpost in Granada, discovering America and enforcing one sole religion in its territory,  it was suddenly justified to use in  chess  a  new  queen with more power  than  her  "king”.  But, concerning the name "dama",  what is its origin? We know that the word  "domina" was already translated in the XIV century  by  the French  word "dame" in chess manuscripts and it is supposed  that in  the  XV  century,  due to the influence of the printed  books  of Jacobus  of Cessolis,  one began to use frequently in  Spain  the dama term for the queen  in chess.  But was it not also due to the idealization of the woman to dama in court poetry, where  the  supremacy  of the  dama  is  one  of  the characteristics of the frustrated love?
The new modality of the game in chess was given several  names abroad.  Thus,  we  see  contemptuous  terms as:   "alla rabiosa"  in  the Italian translation and of  "dame enragée”  in the French translation. In Spain we  see  a neutral term:  "Axedrez  de la dama".   Motive by  which we  also believe  that France as  well  as Italy cannot be the country of origin of  this  new  type of chess.  Other historians asked  themselves how it was possible that this  peculiarity of the game could  be introduced and maintained in all the European countries.This is not so difficult  to explain  if  we take into account the fact  that in 1492 Spain banished  some 250.000 Jews from its land,   who were distributed all  over  Europe  with  all  its  political   and economic influence.  Furthermore,  the  Spanish king Carlos V spent more  time away from Spain than within its boundaries in function of the defence  of  the  Spanish hegemony in Europe.

The  new "powerful" dama of the chess game would have much to do with the invention of  draughts and with the use of this new piece.  To such effect  we have chronologically treated   in  this work the bibliographical texts, whose commentaries  are mostly translated into  Dutch.   The original texts are  basically Spanish,  though we have not forgotten to  mention the most notable foreign books in Latin, German, English, French, Italian and Dutch. 

The  first chapter deals with ancient Egyptian  games,  since they were considered erroneously  by some scholars  as precursors of the dama.  In the same chapter reference is made to the “Ludus Latrunculorum" game, that was taken  by  Thomas  Hyde  as antecedent of the  draughts-game. Below are   described  similar  games  to  the now  disappeared   "Ludus  Latrunculorum", some of   those  which still exist. Chapter  two  describes  a board game with squares (alternatively white and yellow?) the "Jaldeta", that was forbidden in  the XIII century and  was no longer practised around the end  of  the XV century. In  chapter  three we see ourselves in the Spain  of  the XV century, being able to observe the general influence of the Queen  "Isabel la Católica”. We discuss the  expulsion  of  the  Jews  and  the conversion of the Moors to the catholic religion.   It was between 1474 and 1492 when the new powerful dama was developed and this time it can be considered as a dormant stage.The  definitive beginning originated in 1492 when the queen was at the height of her reign :   1.   Conquest of  the Morish outpost “Granada”; 2. Discovery of America;   3.  Expulsion of the Jews;  4.  Loss of power of the nobility due to the administrative reforms.

In  chapter  4  the Latin  terms  "scruporum"  and  "calculorum" are examined.  In the subsequent chapters (5,  6,  7, 8,) Spanish words, which previously were designated to the draughts-game, such as  "marro",  "marro de punta",  "andarraya"  and  "alquerque" are studied in detail.   We demonstrate with  bibliographical proofs that "punta" does not  mean  field,  as Branch , Murray ,  Kruijswijk   and  Van der Stoep  claim,  rather "punta”  means diagonal.   Thus  the game "marro de punta" is  nothing more  than  a  game  with a diagonal direction. The denominations  "marro"  and "marro de punta" belong to the kingdom of  Aragon and those of  "andarraya" and  “alquerque" to the kingdom of Castille.

The  ancient word "trecha",  that years afterwards was  converted into " treta", is analyzed  in  chapter  9.   Apparently the  word  “castro" (castles game) had a certain link to draughts in Turkey and  Palestinian.  In chapter 10  this expression is studied in detail. In chapter 11  we extensively analyze the Latin term  "domina" and the word "dama". In the conclusion of  this  chapter different  modalities of draughts in different countries are described.  Also, in the following chapter the lost book of Antonio de Torquemada is examined.  In 13 a vast study on the book of Juan de Timoneda, printed in 1635, is discussed. According to our investigations some of  those texts could date from 1550.  It is quite possible that some of the positions of draughts that appear in this book will be similar to those which are described in the book of Torquemada.

The Spanish draughts books between 1547 and 1996 and the first European draughts books are discussed in  chapter 14,  as well as the Spanish game books of the period of 1283-1700. At the beginning of the XIX century, Jose Paluzie y Lucena established the first Spanish  bibliographical study of chess . 

In  this modest text we do something similar with draughts.  To the existing  bibliographical  lists in other history  books  about draughts we can add a draughts  book  of  1792   found by  Prof. Dr.  Juan  Torres Fontes  and a manuscript of the year 1690 we found  in an Andalusian library . Until now  a complete relationship among all  the Spanish books, referred   to  the games  in  the period  1283-1700,   had not been established. Thus   our investigations could fill that vacuum.   In chapter 15  hypothesis of other draughts scholars are submitted to discussion and  furthermore a point of  view  is offered on the development  of  the game of alquerque of 12 up to our  current draughts. Much  evidence  exists  to assert that Valencia  could  be  the kingdom of origin of  draughts,  similar to the powerful dama in the chess game, according to the opinion  of  the  chess scholar Dr. Ricardo Calvo. Finally, the Spanish    bibliophile    of   Spanish  draughts   books, Victor Cantalapiedra Martin, expounds in Spanish language,  his  knowledge of the said books in  chapter 16.


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