8th December 1977
Disapproving of chess
From Mr Ian K. Maconochie
Sir, I read with surprise Bernard Levin’s statement in his article on chess (November 21) [sic – JB] that "it has never incurred ecclesiastical displeasure", as not long before the end of the sixteenth century Muslims, Roman Catholics, Jewish and Anglican religions had at one time or another forbidden the playing of the game.
Muslims have a reference to chess as being a form of idol worship in the Koran, though after the prophet Mohammed’s death the decision was altered on condition that no exchange of money or improper language took place. Think of the situation of chess today if this were generally implemented!
Various ecclesiastical decrees, for example those by the Worcester Synod in 1240, and in France by the Provincial Council of Beziers in 1255 were made after an argument between the Bishop of Octia and the Bishop of Florence ended, with the result that the Bishop of Florence did penance for transgressing the Canon Law.
Knights Tempar up until the fifteenth century were forbidden to play chess, and from the rules of Apostolic Canon, at 1110 a monk in Eastern Church wrote that the penalty for playing was excommunication!
So if chess be the eighth deadliest sin, I stand condemned.
From Mr A. Hepner
Sir, I asked a rabbi (himself a keen player) whether it was sinful to play chess on the Sabbath. He said that the way I played it was a sin to play any day of the week!
(Hendon Chess Club)
38 years on now. Does anybody know if these two guys are still around?