Both backgammon and chess were popular in the Islamic world and were introduced into the Iberian peninsula in the 10th century. The Libro de los Juegos (Book of Games), a manuscript commissioned by Alfonso X in the 1283 and now in the library of the Escorial, includes many colour illustrations of chess including the versions imported from the Arab kingdoms. Many of the illustrations depict parties engaged in chess on boards of similarly rectangular form to the present example (Jaime I, Rey y Caballero, Valencia, 2008, ms. T.1.6, pno. 94, pp. 202-03).
The taracea technique of inlaying was used in decoration throughout Spain and North Africa and appeared in the minbar of the Great Mosque of Cordoba on its enlargement under al-Hakim II in the tenth century. Caliphal marquetry workshops continued to execute court commissions under the Almoravids and the Almohads and contributed to the splendor of the minbars in the Qarawiyyin mosque in Fez and those of the Kutubiyya and the Qasba mosques in Marrakech (Dodds, op. cit., p. 373). The stellar motifs with the eight-pointed stars formed of two interlocking squares, are echoed not only on other similar gaming boards, but also on contemporaneous scribes' boxes and chests (see for example one that sold in these Rooms, 17 April 2007, lot 62).
Combined boards of the form found here are known at least from the 14th century onwards. An all-wood non folding example is in Granada (Arte Islmico en Granada, Exhibition Catalogue, Granada, 1995, no.181, p.427). Another example is in the Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Vienna. A comb decorated with identical technique and equally inlaid with silver thread which has been attributed to Italy but dating from circa 1500 and showing very considerable Islamic influence is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Trkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1985, vol.2, no, p.331).