The History of Tournaments
Tournaments are almost as old as knights. Tournaments actually started around the 11th century. They started as somewhat of a game to similar to a military battle. It was a way for knights to learn and improve what was called fighter practice. It was a way for them to learn to work together and work on their mounted skills at the same time. It was also a way for knights to look for work or service.
A melee is a battle where two groups of knights assemble across an open field. When they were signalled, one team would ride toward the other team battling anyone that came into view. The goal was to practice their war skills by knocking knights from the other team around, taking knights hostage and holding them for ransom. They had a lot of fun doing it. A melee was popular and also very realistic. Sometimes tempers would burst and injuries would happen resulting in death. A melee was a great way to build a reputation but could also be embarrassing for a powerful duke if he was unhorsed by a foreign upstart. Fortunes could be won by means of armor and a knight's horse, and careers could be won or lost in a melee. A knight who was already in service for a king had to prove himself or his place in the army could be diminished by the King if he lost.
During melee time Chivalry did not apply. Each knight during a tournament would give his all. No one held back or tried to keep from killing an opponent. The church tried to ban tournaments by threatening to refuse Christian burials to knights who were killed during tournaments. But the knights went to France in search of tournaments. Kings and Princes were also concerned because they needed knights who were alive an uninjured.
In the latter part of the 12th century, King Richard I made an attempt to take control of tournaments. He did this by making it so the knights had to pay a fee to enter tournaments. He also banned foreign knights. With this followed more safety measures for tournaments.
Jousting was a tournament of combat between two nobles. Jousting was usually competitions that were set up between the nobles themselves. The event was held in an area that was called the lists. They would mount their horses and charge at each other with blunt-tipped lances or their weapon of choice. The object was to knock the opponent off his horse. Sometimes a combat on foot would follow.
By the 14th century tournaments had turned into a grand spectacle. It would be announced weeks before by heralds. It became a festival for entertainment. Many attempts were made to ban the tournaments but it wasn't until the society changed that tournaments of old started to decline.
Tournaments later evolved into sports events and game events like chess. For instance, the first chess tournament in a college took place in 1859. Today we even have online tournaments on games at sites like TraderAuctionGames.com
No matter what century or decade, the thrill of becoming a tournament champion seems to be the same.