Chapter 7

7. The tables turned: draughts influenced chess
 My investigations into draughts’ and chess’ past has taken an almost bizarre turn. Chess historians, not only Harold Murray, were convinced draughts originates from chess. According to his American colleague Willard Fiske for example, draughts was designed for the noddies for whom chess was far too difficult: draughts is simplified chess [1905:93-4]. And now chess players appear to have borrowed the name for their chess queen from draughts players, whereas the extended range of the chess queen could have been inspired by the doubleton in Spanish draughts.

Fiske willard
Willard Fiske

 At least mid-14th c. draughts was called in France jeu de dames, a name that has nothing to do with chess. But can this name be misleading? Has draughts perhaps come into being in the 14th c. and played chess an important role? No, this has certainly not been the case, because dames was not the oldest name of draughts.
By the way, this older name of draughts is definitely not jeu de ferses, literally “game of the chess queens”, as Harold Murray claimed [1952:175-6].
It was not difficult to find that older name, as Spanish draughts books mentioned two names for draughts between 1550 and 1650. The older name is marro, the newer one damas. The title of the draughts book in 1591 written by Pedro Ruiz Montero for instance is “Libro del juego de las damas vulgarmente nombrado el marro” (book about damas, in daily speech called marro).
MonteroRuiz Montero 02
Spanish is a Roman language. Was the name marro or a comparable name also used in Italian and French, two sister languages of Spanish? Yes: in Italian marella, in French merelles. Click here for my investigations. We see once more, how linguistics allows us to penetrate into the mist of the past.
There are two linguistic facts under the link I need in next chapters. First, marella and merelles meant, among others, morris. And secondly, Sp. marro, Italian marella and French merelles are continuations of the Latin word marrus, meaning stone, gaming piece. It is no surprise: the three languages I mention are continuations of Latin dialects spoken in these regions.