Apr 27, 2015

The world's most beautiful game of chess

Very recently I got to be part of what is to me the world's most beautiful game of chess. Yes, beautiful. Not the most intelligent, not the most brainy but the most beautiful and perhaps the most poetic! The players of this game were me and my four-year old niece.

So on a lazy weekend afternoon, she picked up the chess board and suggested that we play chess. I was curious. I did not even know that she knew this game. For my age, I am nothing more than a novice in chess. I know only the names of the coins and the rules of the game. But for a child's play, this is far sufficient and so I too agreed to play chess.

But to quench my curiosity, I asked her if she knew to play chess. She said yes. I asked who taught her to play chess. She said she had learnt it herself by watching cartoon characters play chess. Wow! Is my niece that brilliant? Should I take her to an IQ test just in case she is the next girl wonder whiz-kid? As my thoughts were spinning in this direction, she asked me which colour I wanted.

I gave her the option to pick herself and she took white. I asked her if she knew the names of the coins. She said yes and that her mother - yes, my sister - had taught her the names of the coins. Then I asked her if she knew how to move the coins. By this time, she lost her patience and gave me a 'Ellam theriyum.. Nee moodu' look and went on with the game. The game began thus!

She took one of the white coins from the box and placed it on a random square on her side and asked me to make my move. Wait a minute! What? I did not get what was happening. I asked her aren't we supposed to arrange all coins in the starting position before making the first move. She looked at me as if I knew nothing and then volunteered to teach me the game. Here is how the game should be played.

Chess is a two-player game. Each player plays with a set of coins of one colour. The players have to place their coins on their side of the chess board on alternate turns and play the game. While they are placing the coin on the board, they have to correctly tell the name of the coin. And most importantly, the players have to place coins in the board, one at a time from the box outside. And whenever a player feels like doing it, he/she can take a coin and attack one of the opponent coins and push it out of the box. Simple!

So I got a hang of the game's rules and thus we began playing the world's most beautiful game of chess. In response to her first move, I took one black bishop and placed it in the board on my side. Her move. She took out another white coin and introduced that coin as the elephant to me and placed it on her side of the board. A few moves went thus. The board was half filled with coins and suddenly she went on attack mode. She took one of her horses and the horse came flying to attack a poor soldier of mine and the soldier was pushed out of the board.

I responded by taking an elephant of mine and I attacked her bishop. She did not expect my move and this time she came back with a vengeance. She took the other bishop and took out my elephant. Then I resorted to the white flag. I suggested that we play normally and not attack each other. She thought for a moment and accepted my peace offer. In an amazingly magnanimous gesture, she even brought the attacked coins from both sides back into play because of the ceasefire. When I asked her why she is putting those coins back on the board, she said 'pavam la.. let them also play'. I was grinning ear to ear by that time. Then came her masterstroke.

She took another coin from her box and placed it outside the box on the floor and asked me to make my move. Is this the out-of-the-box way of playing chess? I was no more asking questions. I should not expect her to teach me everything. I should also pick up the game by seeing it. So I took a coin from the box and placed it closer to where she placed her last coin on the floor. She gave me an acknowledging smile and took a coin from the board now and placed it in the floor. Ah, the game began interesting here! We both knew the rules of the game perfectly and were playing in sync.

I took another coin from the board and placed it on a chair nearby. She took another coin from the floor and started running to the next room and placed it on the floor there. Thus we played chess all around the home for the next thirty minutes and when both of us felt it was time for a draw, we called the game off and put all the coins back into the box and kept the box carefully in its place. Well, that's her habit. She is so particular about the place of each thing. Every toy of hers has a place in the home and after playing, she makes sure that the toy is put in its right place.

So that is the story of the world's most beautiful game of chess, of which I am one of the proud players too. And it is thoroughly my privilege to have played this game with its inventor herself. Bliss.


Image courtesy : Doug Butchy