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  • Glenn Julich

If you have been around chess long enough, you have likely heard someone refer to the Rook as "the castle." Usually, this is followed by someone with a higher ELO rating publicly shaming them for their folly.

Interestingly, the rook has had many names over the long history of chess, and indeed "The Castle" was one of them. In addition, it has also been called the Tower, the Rector, and the Marquis; just to name few.

So what was it originally supposed to be?

The word "Rook" comes from the Persian word rukh which means chariot. So originally the Rook was designed to represent a chariot, known for its quick mobility around the battlefield. And interestingly, the chariots were decorated to look like they were built of stonework in order to give the impression that they were heavily-fortified weapons of war.

As time passed, the chariot design transitioned from the chariot to an elephant with (or without) a tower on its back. Ultimately the elephant was dropped and, as it appears today, only the tower remains.

Public domain image.

It is speculated that when the game made it to Italy that the word Rukh sounded a lot like the Italian word Rocca, which means fortress. So this could have lead to them being referred to as the Castle.

It is also theorized that the Rook was transitioned to represent a siege tower, as it was called the Torre in some parts of the world. The word Torre means tower in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. A siege tower would have made perfect sense to the medieval chess player as this was a familiar sight on the medieval battlefield.

Siege tower. Public domain image.

In other parts of the world, the Rook was converted to a ship or boat. I'm glad this didn't transition didn't stick around. The idea of a boat floating (?) around a battlefield doesn't make much sense.

So, after centuries of transitions, the Chess world has ultimately settled upon the Rook whose name is derived from the Persian word for chariot and whose design represents a tower with battlements placed atop it.

Sorry, elephants.

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  • Glenn Julich

Happy National Chess Day, everyone!

National Chess Day in the United States was declared by President Ford on October 9th, 1976.  It is recognized as the second Saturday in October.

A great quote from President Ford regarding chess: 

"For both professionals and amateurs, chess is a game that sharpens the mind, tests human faculties and encourages healthy competition. It has captivated the attention of players and specators world-wide and will continue to do so as long as competition and excellence challenge mankind." ~ President Gerald Ford ~ October 1976.  Source: National Day Calendar

Is there an International Chess Day too?  Absolutely.  International Chess Day occurs annually on July 20, the day that the International Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded in 1924.

Today, to celebrate national chess day, I taught my wife how to play.  I'll keep you posted if she keeps with it! 

Did anyone else do anything to celebrate today?  If so, let me know in the comments below!

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Since tomorrow is National Chess Day in the United States, why not catch a new chess flick that was released last month?

CRITICAL THINKING is the latest film directed by and starring John Leguizamo. Here, he plays a Cuban-American teach who takes his Miami Jackson High School Students to the national championship.

The story is based on a true story. While the plot is similar to other Chess movies (kids rise above their socioeconomic challenges to succeed at chess), it still has plenty in the plot to keep it unique and fresh.

The movie has wonderful character development and each has a unique struggle they are facing. Chess serves as an outlet for them to express themselves and to succeed when their teachers and parents expect so little of them. As Mr. Martinez frequently says in the movie, "Chess is the great equalizer." Indeed it is.

It is definitely worth a watch. I purchased the digital version and added it to my growing collection of chess movies.

So this week, in honor of National Chess Day, kick and enjoy CRITICAL THINKING and let me know what you thought of it in the comments below.

If you'd like to watch the trailer, here it is:


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