The 10th-century poet Dhanapāla, whom I have written about a lot on this blog lately, includes an early reference to the game of chess (actually I don’t know how early it is, relative to other evidence — I am sure there has been some scholarship on this that I am not aware of) in one of his most well-known works, Fifty for R̥ṣabha (R̥ṣabhapañcāśikā). This is a hymn in fifty Prakrit verses to the first Tīrthaṅkara, R̥ṣabha. Verse 32 runs as follows:
सारि व्व बंधवहमरणभाइणो जिण न हुंति पइं दिट्ठे ।
अक्खेहिं वि हीरंता जीवा संसारफलयम्मि ॥
sāri vva bandhavahamaraṇabhāiṇō jiṇa na hunti païṃ diṭṭhē ~
akkhēhiṁ vi hīrantā jīvā saṁsāraphalayammi ~~
Living beings are like chess pieces
on the gameboard of worldly life:
although they would be captured by their senses,
[although they would be taken
from the board by throws of the dice,]
if they see you, they are not subject
to capture, killing, and death.
The word sārī- (Sanskrit śārī-) means a “chess piece,” and phalaa- (Sanskrit phalakam-) is a “board.” The interesting thing about this reference, though, is that it suggests that pieces can only be removed from the board subject to the outcome of a throw of dice (akkha- or akṣa-).