Chess: castles and rooks

How and why was it decided that a stone tower can move, and is this indeed what the rook represents?

Also, what does rook mean, and why is this used instead of castle?

The OED etymology for “rook” (the chess piece) as:

Huh. My dictionary rather unhelpfully offers

which differs from the other definitions of the word (a black bird , a con man and the various verb forms), which come from the Old English hroc. (Admittedly, the OED is usually considered the final word on such things.)

That being said, if you Google for “history of chess”, you turn up sites such as this one, which seems to suggest that it comes from “rukh”, where the piece represented a ship, whereas this one ascribes aspects of medieval feudal society to the pieces (the rooks being castles, the pawns being serfs and so forth). I’m not sure I believe any of it.

Digging through all this about “rook” leads to

“\Rook, n. [F. roc (cf. Sp. roque), fr. Per. & Ar. rokh, or rukh, the rook or castle at chess, also the bird roc (in this sense perhaps a different word); cf. Hind. rath a war chariot, the castle at chess, Skr. ratha a car, a war car. Cf. Roll.] (Chess) One of the four pieces placed on the corner squares of the board; a castle.” and “A swindler or cheat, especially at games.”

Same treatment of chess leads to:

"chess = Cheat \Cheat, n. [rob. an abbrevation of escheat, lands or tenements that fall to a lord or to the state by forfeiture, or by the death of the tenant without heirs; the meaning being explained by the frauds, real or supposed, that were resorted to in procuring escheats. See Escheat.] 1. An act of deception or fraud; that which is the means of fraud or deception; a fraud; a trick; imposition; imposture.

There. It’s a Rook. Which is to say, a castle/war charriot/swindler. Since the OED failed us, let’s go nuts on a WAG and just say the coincedence of synonym & function was just too much to resist. I’ll bet someone invented the game around the piece!

While we’re on the subject, why do bishops move diagonally. Because they go both ways?

(Hits the ground running, dodging flak from every direction)

I don’t know about that, but originally the piece which would become the bishop could only move two spaces diagonally and could jump.

Or indeed, had to jump. It was called alfil or aufin and was a miserably weak piece, able to visit only alternate ranks and only two squares on each of these. In other languages a Bishop is called an Elephant or a Fool and the shape of either an elephant’s tusks, stylised, or a fool’s cap, may have suggested a bishop’s mitre.

In shogi, Japanese chess, they just use a phrase that means, more or less, “diagonal-mover”.

The word is kaku. Its most common meaning is “angle”, however, it’s also the name of type of Chinese flute that was used in the military.

The equivalent of the rook, though, the hisha, has a slightly more poetic name that means “flying car”.

Lots of castles have tunnels and towers. When one “castles”, I view it as rearranging the relative position of the king and the tower. True, the tower moves, but you are playing on a 8x8 chessboard. It would be difficult for the king and rook to change relative positions without the rook moving. Not sure if there is any historical basis to my personal interpretation.

Now, where the limits on castling came from - i.e, king must be in orignal spot, etc. - I don’t know.

Another intersting question is why the Queen is so powerful and the King is nearly impotent. I guess you could say both go “both ways”, but the Queen does more.

In Bengali, the queen, bishop, knight, and rook are the minister, elephant, horse, and boat.