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Queening - Mad Queen's Chess

Episode 4 of 5

Dr Marilyn Yalom explores how the queen in chess transformed from a piece as week as a pawn to what she is today. When Chess came to Europe from Persia she was a vizier to the king.

Dr. Marilyn Yalom of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Stanford University has written several books on women including a 'History of the Wife', a 'History of the Breast' and the 'Birth of the Chess Queen'. She writes: It always surprises people to discover that chess was played for 500 years without a queen. What's more, when the queen did appear on the board, she was the weakest piece, and not the powerhouse she is today. I stumbled on these two facts when I was researching my book, A History of the Breast, and a museum curator showed me a small 14th century ivory figure of a Madonna and child, which he referred to as a chess queen. How, I asked, could a nursing Madonna be a chess queen? That question led me to many others concerning queenship, religion, courtly love, and the long history of chess itself.

15 minutes


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