Scachs d’amor by Bill Wall


Scachs d’amor is Catalan for “Chess of Love.”  The complete title of this Catalan poem is Hobra intitulada scachs d’amor feta per don franci de Castellvi e Narcis vinyoles e mossen bernat fennolar sota nom de tres planets co es Marc Venus e Mercuri per conjunccio e influencia dels quals fon inventada.   The poem was written by Francesc de Castellvi, Bernat Fenollar, and Narcis de Vinyoles.  The manuscript was published in Valencia, Spain around 1475.


The poem is conceived as a chess game between Francesc de Castellvi and Narciso Vinyoles.  Castellvi represented Mars, Love, and had the red pieces (White in modern chess).  Vinyoles represented Venus, the Glory, and the green pieces (Black in modern chess).  Mars tries to obtain the love of Venus.  Mercury acts as an arbiter.  The arbiter, Bernat Fenollar, comments and establishes the rules.


The poem uses chess as an allegory for love.  Its structure is based upon 64 stanzas, representing the 64 chessboard squares.  The first stanza represents White’s move, the second stanza represents Black’s moves, and the third stanza is a comment on the rules of the arbiter.  White makes 21 moves, expressed in 21 stanzas.  Black makes 20 moves, expressed in 20 stanzas.  The arbiter comments 20 times in 20 stanzas.  There are three introductory stanzas explaining the allegory, which adds up to the sume of 64 stanzas.


H. J. R. Murray, in A History of Chess, says “The poem exhibits some striking resemblance to Vida’s Schaccia ludus, but on the whole I regard it as describing an earlier phase of chess than that in vida.”


Castellvi, Vinyoles and Fenollar were three well-known members of an active literary circle in Valencia.


The manuscript (not a printed book) was discovered in 1905 by the Jesuit P. Ignasi Casanovas (1872-1936).  It was lost during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).  The manuscript consisted of 13 written folia and 30 blank pages.


This game is the first one documented with the modern rules of chess.  The game was probably never played, but invented for the poem which contained the 64 stanzas.


Francesc (Franci) de Castellvi was lord of several towns in the area of Jativa. Spain in the Valencia province.  He acted as a close advisor in the Aragonese court of King Ferdinand (1452-1516).  Castellvi died on November 6, 1506.


Bernat Fenollar was born between 1435 and 1440 in Penaguila, near Alcoy, in the province of Alcante.  He belonged to a notable Valencian family.  He died in Valencia before 1527 (other sources say he died in 1516).  He was a correspondence secretary to King Ferdinand.  He was also an abbot and the director of the church chorus.  He was a priest in the cathedral of Valencia.  In 1510, he was professor of mathematics at the University of Valencia.  He was a literary patron and  organizer of cultural contests in Valencia.  He was one of the earliest printers of books in Spain.


Narcis Vinyoles was born between 1442 and 1447.  He died in Valencia in 1517.  He was a politician and writer in Valencia.  He belonged to a family of lawyers.  In 1468 he was appointed a member of the City Council.  He later became the supreme judge in civil cases.  In 1495, King Ferdinand recommended him for the position of ‘Justicia Criminal.’  Vinyoles spoke Catalan, Castillian, Latin, and Italian.  Vinyoles was married to Brianda de Santangel, niece of the great banker that backed financially the first expedition of Columbus.  The couple had no children. 


The first printed book, by Lambertus Pamert, appeared in Valencia in 1474.  It contained poems by Fenollar, Castellvi, and Vinoyles.


Castellvi (Mars) – Vinyoles (Venus), Valencia, 1475

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.h3 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 e6 8.Qxb7 Nbd7 9.Nb5 Rc8 10.Nxa7 Nb6 11.Nxc8 Nxc8 12.d4 Nd6 13.Bb5+ Nxb5 14.Qxb5+ Nd7 15.d5 exd5 16.Be3 Bd6 17.Rd1 Qf6 18.Rxd5 Qg6 19.Bf4 Bxf4 20.Qxd7+ Kf8 21.Qd8 mate


Today, Valencia is the third largest city in Spain  (behind Madrid and Barcelona) and an industrial are on the Costa del Azhur in Spain.  It has a population of 807,000 people.  The original Latin name was Valentia (founded in 138 BCE), meaning strength or vigor.  During the rule of the Muslim Empires in Spain, it was known as Balansiya in Arabic.  Valencia was the city where El Cid, Spain’s national hero, fought against the Moors in 1094.  El cid ruled the province of Valencia from 1094 to 1099.  Its university was founded in 1501.  The first printing press in the Iberian Peninsula was located in Valencia.  The earliest dated printed book from Spain was produced at Valencia by Lambert Palmart on February 23, 1475.  The first printed Bible in a Romance language was printed in Valencia in 1478.  It was the Valencian bankers that loaned funds to Queen Isabella for Columbus’ trip in 1492.


The poem can be found at