A Life Sized Game of Chess

Everyone loves Chess. Unlike many board games, in Chess there are no dice to throw around or cards that make you go to Jail or collect 200 fake money but what you certainly need is a strategic mind and capacity to learn. Playing Chess regularly is known to boost cognitive capacities and ward off degenerative diseases of the mind in both adults and children. Remember the Harry Potter scene from Philosopher’s Stone ? For the uninitiated, this is the scene where the kids, to get into a room, must play a game of magic Chess. It’s like normal Chess, except the pieces are made of huge rocks that move on a massive black and white checkered floor as the players make their moves and when a piece needs to be taken off the game, it is violently struck down to tiny bits by the opponent. Quite an advertisement for one of the oldest and most popular board game in the world. In any case, I recently found out there is an even more dramatic but very much realistic version of Chess played every year in a small corner of Italy.

An old timey town in called Marostica has a real life sized version of Chess played every other year, where participants dress up as the chess pieces – all of them, from the pawns who stab in zigzag direction to the diagonally lethal bishops. The four horsemen – a pair for either side – come with real horses, black and white to match their team colors and the rook (or castle as it is called in Italy) comes with a make-believe castle that is carted around by someone. The real game, a regular sized version, is played by two Princes, sitting on an elevated pedestal, dressed in black and white representing the side they are playing. As they make their moves and the characters in the bigger chess board – which is more like a strong platform made of concrete or may be some re-enforced steel to support all those people and the four horses. All the characters involved come in 15-century garb, complete with skin tight velvet straps and hats that serve no strategic or even practical purpose other than to hide all evidence of male pattern baldness. The women wear what looks like tiaras, which, I believe, is the 15-th century equivalent of the tiaras of today; actually, to be accurate, they are equivalent to tiaras of all centuries.

YouTube has a bunch of videos of this event, but here is one that shows a pawn getting removed and, yes, a move by the horse.

The origin of this fascinating event is , as you’d expect, a game of chess played in 1454 by two princes to settle their dispute over who would get to marry the princess they both loved. My fellow Tamillians would recall the scene from the movie ‘Ejaman’ where a similar dispute is resolved with bull-cart racing, which I believe to be the most efficient way to resolve all significant disputes of life. In any case – coming back to our ancient chess game – luckily, the princess had a sister, so the prince who lost the game still got to marry his original romance’s sibling and got to live in the same castle where, most likely, the prince and his original romance ran into each other regularly leading to a very high frequency of awkward silences. That last part is just my guess.

I found this when Twitter sent me here, a blog from an Indian man who digs around the world for interesting events like this. His blog has a few more this stuff, so check it out if your interested.

Is there a board game you would like to see played out in real life ? (No, Naked Monopoly is excluded, you perverts!)

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