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fidchell


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[Ir., wood(en) wisdom; wood(en) intelligence].

A boardgame of early Ireland, often compared with but apparently distinct from chess. A precise description of play does not survive, but allusions to the game abound. The players sat on opposite sides of a square board. Playing pieces, described as ‘smooth, speckled, and peaked’, were pegged into positions in rows. The main object of the game seems to have been the capturing of one's opponent's pieces, if not his complete annihilation. Sometimes fidchell was played for mere amusement; sometimes the stakes were much higher, as in Tochmarc Étaíne [The Wooing of Étaín]. Lug Lámfhota was said to have invented the game, and Cúchulainn was a recognized champion: it is often described as a game of kings and is linked to the province of Munster. Comparable to brandub, búanfach, and the Welsh board-game gwyddbwyll [W, wood(en) wisdom].

See Eóin MacWhite, ‘Early Irish Board Games’, Éigse, 5 (1945), 25–35.

Subjects: Religion


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