13c., from O.Fr. esches
pl. of eschec
), from the key move of the game. The original word for "chess" is Skt. chaturanga
"four members of an army" -- elephants, horses, chariots, foot soldiers. This is preserved in Sp. ajedrez,
from Arabic (al) shat-ranj,
from Pers. chatrang,
from the Skt. word.
"The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem." [Marcel Duchamp]