A radical new approach to chess. Deciding winners by jury instead of by checkmate? I’d probably stick with the old version. The new variety, outlined in the blog-post I’m sharing below, seems be a bit nebulous for this old dog. Somehow this reminded me of the art world, but don’t mind me. I shall shuffle off now into obsolescence.
A Radical Transformation of chess
by Lisa Braxton
Chess has always been a pastime for the cult of the white male genius. This should be obvious to everyone. The pieces are white or black, and white always gets the privilege of going first, and thus framing the opening of the game in their terms. The queen is the most powerful piece, and can move in every direction the king can, but as many pieces are vacant, whereas the king can only hobble to one square at a time. Nevertheless, the queen is not as valuable a piece, and is sacrificed to save the comparatively lame king. The whole game is structured around conquest, killing, and taking over territory.
New rules for chess were devised by a diverse panel of the best minds in academia from a dozen colleges and universities around the country (including Oberlin College, Portland State University, Sarah Lawrence College, Cal State Berkeley, Wesleyan University, Evergreen State College, and UC Irvine…). Our goal was to undermine the patriarchal, colonial, war-mongering, white supremacist underpinnings of the game, and replace them with a more intersectional, non-binary, non-oppressive approach.
Here are some of the new rules and variations of play we agreed upon.
- Black will always have the first move.
- At least an equal number of tournament games will be played in which the queen, rather than the king, must be captured to win the game on the board [there is a significant outside-board element as well]. Here, the best piece is also the most precious. The king becomes less important than the rook, night, or bishop.
- Pieces will come in a range of colors [black, brown, yellow, green, red, orange…) with the exception of white, or if someone insists on using white, there will be a serious points penalty. Bonus points will be awarded for choosing black.
- Judges will rate performance rather than traditional chess strategy. How the game is played becomes more important than strictly winning. A move may be elegant, comic, or ironic, without being invested in killing the other player’s most important piece. Judges may award points for a non-binary approach, or non-hierarchical sacrifices (ex., sacrificing a rook to save a pawn). This allows a subjective, interpretive, playful element to the game, and acknowledges that the “winner” is never a singular, factual thing, but a shifting impression ultimately determined by the audience.
- Consideration will be given to player behavior (ex., points will be deducted for micro-aggressions, such as knocking over the pieces aggressively, trying to make eye-contact, arm-folding, scowling, scoffing, grunting, or man-spreading…).
- The judges will be appointed in order to insure diversity and a wide spectrum of expertise and opinion. Not only chess players will be among judges, but experts in other fields, such as sociology, gender studies, contemporary art, and critical theory…
- Ideally, winners will reflect optimal equity demographics. Presence is important, and so there will be rewards for unique or underrepresented participants.
- Social media voting will be worth part of the total score.
- A quiz with approximately 25 questions regarding politics and social issues will be given before the game, and may result in some players being penalized a number of moves or pieces if they hold egregious opinions on the most important matters.
What was once, for audiences, a tedious game to watch, is now much more entertaining, and players need to rethink the game. You can’t rely on centuries-old strategies when the king is no longer the most valuable piece. The game of chess has been rescued from becoming irrelevant in the 21st century, but more importantly, disrupting the institution of chess restructures how we think about games, competition, strategizing, and winning, while undermining systemic patriarchal, colonial, and racist narratives.
Chess is now safe for our daughters, POC, and anyone wearing a dress!