Why is chess called the game of kings? (Explained!)

Affiliate disclaimer: Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!

Chess is called the game of kings mainly for two reasons: one, chess is popular for people of royal status during medieval times, and two, the centerpiece of the game is the king piece, but there’s much more to that.

Castling Myths and Facts | Chessdel...
Castling Myths and Facts | Chessdelights.com

Chess has been called the game of kings ever since I was just starting to play, it has been called like that for a long time and I want to know why.

Of course back then I didn’t have enough motivation to do any actual research on this topic, but now I just did last evening while google searching for some stuff.

There are just many things that can be associated with chess since it has a lot of potential symbols, and I think this is one of them. But still, people are curious just like I usually am, so I felt the need to make this article, I just want to answer everything!

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Is chess being called the game of kings because of history?

For the most part, chess has been called the game of kings since the king piece in chess is the center of all objectives involved in the game. It essentially means a game with kings that fight each other.

This naming system is similar to what a lot of beginners do when they describe a game that they ever see, which is the objectives of the game and how it is visually played. 

Someone who never played basketball before will describe basketball as “a game where basketball balls are thrown into the hoop” something that is obvious from an outsider.

This is the biggest reason of all reasons here, which is the game focuses on the safety and attacks on the king that it can be synonymously called as a game of kings by beginners. And what do you know, there are more beginners than pros in chess.

Meaning that monikers like these are likely to be spread to more people (since there are more beginners) and stick for a long time.

Chess was originally called the Game of Kings in a past era in India (where the game originated) because the central figure is the Shah or King. The game ends in Shahmat (literally, The King is Dead). 

Shahmat is actually the word where checkmate is derived from, a lot of things in chess focuses on the king, protecting it, and attacking it that people will start noticing. 

Such reputation have made it to the international ground as the game becomes more popular globally, a lot of people have begun calling it that way.

And it sounds so accurate, the game of kings, it is an honorary name that a lot of chess enthusiasts will fairly accept which is understandable.

The game of kings may mean the game for royalties

Now this one is a less convincing reason than the previous one, which is the popularity of chess to the medieval society’s nobilities. 

It may have been called the game of kings since chess has traditionally been a game popular for royalties in the medieval society, so it may have an origin there.

However I found this less convincing since a lot of monarchies have banned chess for a really long time, and chess players are really not that high in the medieval hierarchy.

You would think that people who excel in the game of kings should be treated more highly.

This is not the case however, they do earn some salary in some medieval countries, but most have the worth of a regular servant. However I cannot deny that in pop culture, chess has been treated as a game that is played by royalties.

The legitimacy of this though is in question, just by the fact that some countries have banned chess means that the opinion for this game (in royal standards) is not too high all the time.

Is chess called the game of kings because of its symbolisms?

Chess may have been called the game of kings since the king piece in the game represents the player, the player who controls all the pieces acts as a surrogate king.

I think this is an angle that hasn’t been properly explored yet, which are symbolisms. I mean nobody really knows the exact explanation why chess has been called the game of kings, it is all speculation on what is reasonable.

This means that some things are open to interpretation, (though I believe the very first point is the correct one) and this is something that I’ve thought up which is symbolism as a surrogate king.

Being a king (in chess) basically means owning everyone in terms of skill, both players are controlling a lot of pieces that they can be considered as a leader, where the king piece is personified as a miniature of themselves in the game.

It is called the game of kings since both players are acting as the king by using their units to battle against each other, meaning a game that will make you a temporary king. It is not a permanent position since you will lose your power as soon as the game ends.

Building up to the first point (the king piece as the origin of the game of kings moniker), it can be a game of kings since the game revolves around the kings who control the units (player).

This is an interesting angle, however, I think this may not be the case (though could be).

Game of kings from medieval symbolisms in chess

This one is just like the one above, an interesting angle on why chess might have been called the game of kings. This one though is about the element of accountability in chess, and how it can make you feel like a king.

 When you win a game of chess it can feel like you are a king since you are able to use your own pieces to defeat the opponent’s own pieces (just like in war).

Since every individual move in the game has led to the result, it is easy to have the ego boost that you have commanded an army to defeat the enemy.

Consequently if you lose, the emotions will be far on the opposite side (negative), which is why you feel bad about yourself when losing (accountability).

Because you will know that you have lost based on your flawed decision-making, even though the opposite is true if you have won.

It may have been called the game of kings since it is a game where winners emerge, where only one can win, just like how only one can come on top of a monarch society.

There can only be one king, and anyone who is on the opposite side of that are kings that do not belong (supposedly).

So the match is a challenge where two kings (players) battle in order to prove who is worthy, this will be done through a game that will decide who is the true king, a game of chess.

Do you now know why chess is called the game of kings?

There definitely are a lot of monikers that have been associated with chess, from the royal game, the game of knights, etc. but none has been as popular as the game of kings.

I wrote this article for those of you who might be wondering about this (since I have been wondering too) since it is such a cool name.

It is not an official name by any means, just a colloquial word that has been spread around in articles and discussions. The king is the most important piece, it also symbolizes that chess being the game of kings, is such a valuable game!

This is a good symbolism if you promote chess in online avenues (like I do) which is just a cool thing to know. I think I will use this as a title for some of my articles actually, that is all, sleep well and play chess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.