The Story of Chess
by Horacio Cardo
Abbeville Press Publishers
. . .It is the story of two nations, one black and the other white, that lived on and fought over a great island that has since disappeared. . .
They say that so many people died in the war and that the sadness of the kings was so great that they decided to leave a tribute to the war so that it would not be repeated. The kings knew the task would not be an easy one, so they offered a large reward to the person who could tell the story in an original and memorable way.
From that moment on, inventors, storytellers, and jesters began to parade through the court, but none of them could devise a fitting memorial. So much time passed that the kings were losing hope of ever seeing their wishes fulfilled.
Finally, one day a man named Sissa arrived at court, bearing a wooden case. Winning an audience with the two kings, he proceeded to unpack the case and explain the game he had invented. Inside the box was a playing board he had devised, a stylized map “divided by seven parallels and seven meridians” with an equal number of light and dark squares.
“To play this game,” he said, “we must learn the moves of each and every one of your pieces. Are you ready?”
Sissa began with the kings; identical pieces, one black, one white. The kings’ presence was essential to the game, and the pieces were powerful enough to move in any direction; benefiting the cautious nature of a monarch, however, the pieces could only move one space in any direction in a given turn. The kings stand facing each other on opposite sides of the board.
A queen, the most powerful person in her court, “sparkles and shines like a star; her light permits her to move rapidly in all directions, reaching even the farthest points on the board in a single move.” The queen is not essential to the game, however, and may be captured. She begins the game standing next to her king.
The kings and queens all have their own counselors, the bishops, who stand next to them and whisper advice in their ears. The bishops move in the direction of their whispers—diagonally.
To explain the knight’s peculiar move, Sissa asked everyone to move to the jousting grounds, where a knight had volunteered to participate in a test of skill. Sissa released a fox into the arena and asked the knight to hunt the fox. The knight corralled the fox in a matter of seconds, but the wily animal, seeing himself in mortal danger, hid under the legs of the knight’s horse, where he could not be injured by the lance or sword:
”We have all seen clearly the real power of a mounted combatant. He is strong in the fight at the middle distance, but he lacks the reach to strike beyond an arm’s length. We can also see his clumsiness in fighting at close range.”
The story continues, describing and explaining the rationale behind each piece’s moves. This book was meant for children, and is illustrated with a bizarre (really, I mean that in a good way) combination of collage, diagrams, and cartoon-like images, many of which were created with the help of a computer. Text, images, lettering, and design are all the work of the author, and the end product is well worth a look. The Story of Chess serves as a good introduction to the game for those not familiar with it, and provides an interesting and amusing explanation of the moves, even for those who have been playing for years.
The Kings, so pleased were they with the cleverness of the game, offered Sissa any compensation he desired...
Ahh, but I can't tell you the whole story, now can I? You'll have to find the book and read it for yourself.
ISBN 0-7892-0250-6 All words in italics are directly from the book.