The Extraordinary Origins of Chess: Irving Finkel & Sushma Jansari, The Portico Library, 2021

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During their 2021 exhibition ‘Fun & Games: playtime, past and present’, The Portico Library hosted this online event on the Indian, Persian and Arab roots of the world’s most famous game of strategy, chess. This was a pay-what-you-can event in association with MACFEST Festival of Muslim Arts & Culture supporting The Portico Library’s free public arts and education programmes.

Dr Sushma Jansari is the Tabor Foundation Curator: South Asia, at the British Museum. She was instrumental in the redevelopment of the British Museum’s Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery of China and South Asia which opened in 2017 and is currently lead curator in the team developing the Manchester Museum South Asia Gallery in partnership with the British Museum (opening 2022). Sushma is also writing a book for UCL Press titled ‘Chandragupta Maurya: the creation of a national hero in India’.

Irving Finkel is a Senior Curator in the Middle East Department at the British Museum, where he is in charge of the cuneiform tablet collection. He is also a specialist in the history of ancient board games and edited ‘Board Games in Perspective’. He deciphered the rules for the Royal Game of Ur, the national board game of Ancient Mesopotamia.

‘Opening Moves: The Extraordinary Origins of Chess’ was hosted by The Portico Library’s Exhibitions and Programmes Curator James Moss.

You can enjoy the online version of the full ‘Fun & Games’ exhibition at .


  1. 💘💘💘. 💞. 😃Today will Now Be Brilliant. Thank You. 😃Been playing since I was 2. 👉Isince ( 1973 )

  2. Everybody should have a healthy 1hr dose of Professor Irv Finkel I wish he could like your like a rock star I ''''would''' d.i.e dor Michael cremi and irving Finkel to have a discussion ooo heaven on yt if only I had more to give than thumbs appreciation and the forward payment of hike pass touchdown you tube guys n gala gals yeah we love the best platform yt bought up remember san brueno days y'all? ne1? 💋🗽🫂 I'm so silly hug huh ?!?; ❤️(⁠ ⁠ꈍ⁠ᴗ⁠ꈍ⁠)

  3. Damn, i like this guy. Dude has awesome charisma. I really enjoyed this. Thank you

  4. It is very funny that it started with a chess items from Persia and tried to tell stories about invention in India ( without any evidence) and make stories about playing chess in England. Don't you think the main part of it which is Persian chess is missing?😅😅

  5. About the red vs black pieces: In Alice in Wonderland (or behind the mirrrors?) there is the Red Queen; could it be that Lewis Caroll took his inspiration from the Lewis chess set?

  6. "What change would you make?" Un-Castling, which would allow you to reverse a castling move back to their original positions.

  7. When I was a boy (I am a few years older than Dr. Finkel) I could never win, or even compete with, my elder brother at chess–so I gave it up as a lost cause. There was a time when I had someone with whom to play Go–the East Asian board game–and that was very interesting, but after several years we went our different ways.

  8. There's no luck😏try playing with black to start the match🥴🥴

  9. 26:00 The King is the most important piece. A king acts through his agents; he does not do everything in his realm or on his battlefied personally – what point then of an army? I don't agree with Dr Finkle's description of the tired shy king here. Even on the battlefield the king has of course an honour guard with him.The queen's upgrade however has many more influences that I would assume some polite chap like Dr Finkle wouldn't dare say directly to a woman, especially such a friendly one. The new rule or version was also known as the "Mad Queen's Chess" which is the version we mainly play today. The "mad queen" is a hysterical woman, or in a friendlier interpretation projecting the reach of her own games of intrigue. The meanest interpretation would be that in order to get the women interested in the game, one would appeal to their narcissism and make the piece representing them some all powerful Mary Sue who could do everything compared to everyone else. A cruel power fantasy so to say. Something we see in today's badly written media quite a lot, and hopefully dying down soon again. – The mentioned TV show "The Queen's Gambit" is similarly such a power fantasy appealing to just that, for there is no historical precedent for what happens in the show. It is a mere fantasy of a "strong women" outdoing all the men in what they're great at.Narcissism is of course not a solely female thing, but this is an expression of it. As Dr Finkle said himself, I would have enjoyed more women to play with as well, but alas barely any are interested in such games. Be it chess, shogi, go or the like. More colourful and less abstract boardgames, like Archipelago, or with even more social aspects in the game's narrative changes that a bit.

  10. hooligans attacked Irving Finkel. they get… enougt knowledge to pass exams in harvard…

  11. “When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.”-Cortana

  12. I hope someone is filming Dr Finkel every day. What a treasure he is to the human race!

  13. Vietnamese chess, a real thing, is very interesting. I bought a Vietnamese chess set at a Vietnamese market in Dallas in the early 1980's and played Vietnamese chess with my Vietnamese immigrant colleagues.

  14. The Harry Potter story made me recall that wonderful scene in the Thomas Crown affair, where the lead actress exotically caresses the smooth dome head of her bishop, whilst emphasising her ploy with her foot under the table.

  15. Chess for me, is the temporary psychological domination of one over another.
    The advantage being that the domination being only temporary.
    The representation of the pieces for best effect, need to be recognised not from looking but from scanning.
    The difference between listening and hearing if you like.

  16. White pieces were ivory; green pieces probably originated as jade.

  17. I love that people developed themselves while essential personnel just worked around the clock, I feel no different than prior to covd19, actually I do feel a bit more poor. 😭😭

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