Mathematical games in Europe around the year 1000
By Jorge Nuno Silva
Gerbertus: International Academic Online Publication on History of Medieval Science, Vol.1 (2010)
Introduction: This paper addresses the question: which board games could Gerbert have played? There are strong reasons to relate Gerbert with games, as we showed already in .
Dice have always been very popular, but we donʹt think this primitive form of play would attract Gerbertʹs intellect ([2, 7, 10, 11]). Arabs brought Alquerque to Europe, which became very popular. This forefather of the actual Checkers/Draughs game used a lined board and the action happened on the intersections.
Each player, on his turn, could move a piece to an adjacent empty intersection, along one of the marked lines. Captures used the small jump method and could take multiple jumps and captures. The first capture was mandatory.
A player wins a game if he captures all his opponent’s pieces, or blocks all his movements. If none of these situations looks attainable the winner is the player with more pieces on the board.
Nine Men Morris, also played on the intersections of a ruled board, has its remote origins lost in time. Pieces move along the lines to adjacent empty intersections. Belonging to the family of alignment games (typically three in a row), each time a player occupies a straight segment with three of his pieces, he is free to choose one enemy piece to throw out of the board. Whoever sees his pieces reduced to three, looses.
Chess was also brought by the Arabs from the East to Europe. Originally, the game of chess represented a battle, with its soldiers, elephants and men on horses. In Europe the names and shapes of the pieces evolved and eventually emulated the medieval society, with Kings, Queens, Bishops, Knights and peasants ().