The History of Courier Chess___
Courier chess was an extraordinarily long lived chess variant, spanning some 600 years, and bridging the transition between the medieval chess brought in from Arabia and the modern chess we still play today. But accounts of courier chess are few and scattered across the centuries. Here is a brief chronology of significant dates in the life of courier chess:
About 500 A.D. chess begins somewhere in Asia
822 Chess first enters Europe, through Spain.
1202 Wirnt von Gravenberg mentions courier chess in his Arthurian romance, Wigalois.
1300 Heinrich von Beringen mentions the courier game as an improvement on chess, in his great chess poem, Schachbuch.
1337 Kunrat von Ammenhausen describes a detailed account of courier chess in Constance (at the south-west corner of Germany, bordering Switzerland).
1497 The first known publication of the rules of modern chess: Repeticion de Amoresy Arte de Ajedrez by Luis Ramirez de Lucena, in Spain.
1616 Gustav Selenus witnesses courier chess in Ströbeck, Germany. He describes the rules of play in his Das Schack- oder König-Spiel (“Chess- or King-Game”). He also provides a sketch of elaborate figurative pieces (below).
1651 On May 13th, The village of Ströbeck, Germany is presented with a courier chess board and silver courier chess pieces by the Elector-Prince Frederick William of Brandenburg. The board remains in Ströbeck; the silver pieces are long gone.
1661 Jan de Braÿ, classic Dutch Artist in Haarlem, Netherlands, sketches a young man (possibly a self-portrait), sitting with chessmen strewn on a courier chess board (top of this page). Certain pieces, especially the pawns, show a strong resemblance to the pieces in van Leyden's painting of 1508.
1817 A man by the name of Langenstraß leaves a courier chess board in Ströbeck, Germany. It remains on display today at the Ströbeck chess museum.
1821 H. G. Albers from Lüneburg writes that courier chess is played in the Ströbeck area.
1825 Visitors to Ströbeck report that the game of courier chess has been forgotten there.
1831 Author and chess master William Lewis visits Ströbeck and reports "the Courier Game is now seldom played at Stroebeck". He describes the moves of the queen and bishop (the ancient moves), and notes that the pieces, man (sage) and fool (jester), are now both "state counselors".
1885 The First Harzer chess congress is held in Ströbeck. A courier chess match is included in the program.
Van Leyden’s painting of courier chess is moved to an air-raid
The painting is returned to Germany, to The Haus der Kunst in
Courier Chess Reproduction
complete set of 48 pieces stand between ¾ inch
and 2 ¼ inches tall (1.8 ~ 6 cm), the same size of those
depicted in van Leyden’s painting.
the first production of in 2008, additional versions of the
chessmen and board have been created. See the link below for
currently available sets.
productions are being developed. Check our listings
for fine brass sets and hand made boards.
Print of Lucas van Leyden's Painting
size: The image is reproduced in the same size as
the original painting: