The interesting thing is how well the pieces fit some of the classic character archetypes:
- The King is like the Hero: the most indispensable character around whom the story revolves.
- The Queen is like the Chick (or perhaps the Heart): less appreciated than the Hero but a powerful character who holds the team together (and whose loss often makes the team fall apart).
- The Rook is like the Big Guy: the stoic, straightforward heavy-lifter who might not be quick (rooks are often the last pieces to be developed) but pulls a lot of weight, especially in the endgame.
- The Bishop is like the Smart Guy: quick and versatile, mystical and unpredictable, striking from a long distance and often performing two or three jobs at once, but lacking the power by himself to achieve victory.
- The Knight is like the Lancer: likely to go over the others’ heads and the one most likely to sacrifice himself for the cause (knights before bishops, after all).
- The Pawns are like the Red Shirts: expendable minor characters who may, if they push forward bravely and stay faithful to the end, eventually become queens.
And that’s not all. The major chess strategies also correlate loosely to major story tropes. For example, at the beginning of the game, it’s important to move the king to safety, while in the endgame, the king becomes a much more important offensive piece. Likewise, the hero often spends the first half of the story running away from the bad guys, while in the second half, he starts to take real action.
And the list goes on. The more I learn about chess, the more parallels I see. It’s gotten to the point where I want to try diagramming a novel, or perhaps a series, according to a chess game, with that fact being part of the big reveal. Or perhaps to have one of the major characters have a long-standing chess rivalry with another character who ends up being a major bad guy.
Or something. I’m just starting a new novel, so everything looks fresh and exciting. The story will probably change and evolve considerably over the course of writing it, but since it’s a fantasy novel, I think that some chess motifs may be especially appropriate. Fantasy, after all, is about taking the reader back to a golden age of magic lost in the pages of history, and chess is perhaps the oldest popular game in the world.
In the meantime, is anyone up for a game of chess?
Image (cc) from wikimedia commons.