The exact location, time and method of the entry of chess into western Europe is unknown, however linguistic evidence suggest that it was almost certainly obtained from the Arabs.
However the earliest western evidence of chess is dated to the eleventh century at the very earliest, still a significant time after the arabs themselves had discovered chess. Given that prior to eleventh century the arabs had substantial settlements in Spain, France and Italy knowing that our version of chess came from the arabs has not helped in identifying the entry point.
Philogical evidence points to an earlier date than archeological and literary evidence currently suggests, indicating that the game entered Europe perhaps as early as 900 AD.
In the beginning chess was only played by peers at the court. The only exception is the so-called chess village Ströbeck, where chess became popular among the farmers in the early 11th century already.
Chess in Britain
This is currently organised by the British Chess Federation (BCF). Tournament organisers and chess clubs send game results and appropriate fees to the BCF which then compiles ratings that measure the playing strength of active players.
The basis of BCF ratings broadly speaking is that the difference in ratings is half the difference in percentage scores. That is, if player A beats player B in a match 8 to 2 (60% difference), you would expect his grade to be about 30 points higher. Grades are calculated by averaging out points gained or lost against opponents whose grades are known already. There are two sets of grades, one for rapidplay games (30 minutes each per game), the other for standard games (two minutes or more average per move).
In addition to games within the club, there are leagues in which clubs compete with each other and these games will also be graded.
The most famous tournament held in Britain is probably the Hastings international chess congress, which runs from late December to early January.
Tournaments usually pay prizes both for the first three or four places and for people who get the most points within a particular range of grades, but the vast majority of players who enter them play for recreation.
- HJR Murray, A History of Chess, (Oxford University Press)
- Helena M. Gamer, The Earliest Evidence of Chess in Western Literature: The Einsiedeln Verses, Speculum, Vol. 29, No. 4. (October 1954), pp. 734-750.