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September 19, 2003 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Human chess on a city-block scale. Giant chess games, played by international masters, using humans as pieces and city blocks as the board squares. Another game is in the works for New York next year, and the organizer is preparing to hold a similar game in San Francisco next month. Plus, bonus stories from the front line: "Black Queen's Bishop gets call on cell phone, ordering him to move South. We note that the Black Queen has apparently moved from her position at c7. We appear to be on the attack! I eagerly await my own orders to move."
posted by majcher (14 comments total)
Oh, right, before we get started, let me just save us a little time.

"Huh, huh, this is stupid. Why can't they be normal and play on a regular chessboard? They should just have a stupid chess flash mob with their stupid trendy selves, huh huh."

There, now that we've got that safely out of the way, you may proceed with the usual commenting, and the bad language, and the glavin.
posted by majcher at 3:24 PM on September 19, 2003

Sorry Majcher. You are being unmutual and need to report to No. 2 and explain your actions.

- The Village Council
posted by rough ashlar at 3:27 PM on September 19, 2003

It would be more interesting if rather than just moving from one space to another, the players representing the pieces acted out fights between them anytime one piece ended up taking another - that's the way it was done in the old DOS Game Battle Chess with graphic simulations
posted by gregb1007 at 3:45 PM on September 19, 2003

Ah, sweet Battle Chess. Did anyone else make a point of trying every checkmating combination, just to see the grisly deaths of the King?
posted by samw at 3:48 PM on September 19, 2003

I like this in concept, but it's lacking something. The game from the human-piece perspective seems to be pretty boring. The random passersby on the street don't notice the game and don't care if told. For the actual players (the chess masters), it's just a normal game of chess.

It's an interesting idea, but chess isn't the game to play. Or at least not conventional chess. Perhaps a variant of speed chess would be better? All of the pieces would have to be frantically running about, and maybe their team's time continued to run while in transit, making it a bit more of a collaborative effort.

Or some entirely "new" game, inspired by chess and/or go, but with changes to make the game more amenable to this kind of play. First, pieces should have something to do pretty much all of the time. Second, it could use more pieces and more interaction between pieces (and something for passersby to notice, perhaps). Third, it should be a team effort, so the people playing the pieces can affect the outcome. Fourth, the coolest part about this idea is using 64 square blocks in the middle of a city as a game board, so it would be nice if the rules emphasized that aspect somehow (besides just being a regular square grid, that is).
posted by justin at 4:16 PM on September 19, 2003

The story of the black knight on the linked page reads just like a soldier's story from a real war. Most of the time it's just boring, there are rumors about the general situation, but nobody knows, occasionally one sees enemies or friends, then it just ends and the participants don't know why.
posted by Triplanetary at 5:22 PM on September 19, 2003

Did anyone else make a point of trying every checkmating combination, just to see the grisly deaths of the King?

Yes. The pawn's was the funniest.
posted by oaf at 5:22 PM on September 19, 2003

Ok...I like the theory, but as people's dull, it's needs...ooooh paintball guns! And they players should be dressed as their role. So, somewhere in Manhattan, one bishop would be running around a city block trying to catch...I dunno...a guy running around with a stick pony and shoot him with a paintball gun. But, the bishop could be sniped which case the move would fail, the turn would go to the next player...and so on.

Player one: "I capture your knight with my bishop." They wait for live action results...but the knight sees the bishop first, takes aim and splatters him with yellow goo.

Player Two "I don't think so Bob..."

Fun for everyone...including the confused passersby.

Oh...and aaaarrrrr!
posted by dejah420 at 6:00 PM on September 19, 2003

This is a fun idea. It is possible to redesign chess to accomodate urban intersections, but it's obvious that the original chess rules don't carry over comfortably.

Triplanetary's observation is very astute. Chess is supposed to be a microcosm of war both strategically and tactically, and it dehumanizes the participants of war into "pieces." So it's an astute observation to see the correlations between a chess participant on the streets of New York, and an actual soldier in a real war.

However, if one wanted to keep the original chess rules, it's best to play human chess on a field that's small enough to allow participants to see one another on the board. I like the Living Chess presentations one finds in Renaissance Faires, but they're usually planned and staged, which takes the fun out of it. There should be a more improvisational feel to it, and the participants should compete in some manner when one piece attempts to take another's square.

The idea of using intersections is just too big, and requires a more creative approach than to rigidly stick to the original rules. I don't see how one can have it both ways. Either make the field smaller, or give the players more to do.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:40 PM on September 19, 2003

For those looking for more fun and participation, Minneapolis-St. Paul just staged the Big Urban Game, featuring enormous colored inflatable game pieces.
posted by dhartung at 9:02 PM on September 19, 2003

Is this sort of like "The Grand Chessboard"?
posted by troutfishing at 6:56 AM on September 20, 2003

Black piece: Hey, Burns has been gone for a while now.
Other Black piece: Let's get out of here.

*Black pieces run away*

Black King: No, you fools! Protect me!

*White pieces rush up and beat the crap out of Black King*
posted by Stauf at 8:51 AM on September 20, 2003

The account written by Zack, black QS knight, is hillarious. Choice quote:

A Black pawn wanders by, eating an ice cream cone. He has yet to be given a single move, and questions his purpose.
posted by carfilhiot at 9:18 AM on September 20, 2003

Reminds me of the living chess game they have in Marostica (in Italy) every two years.
posted by sailoreagle at 12:28 PM on September 20, 2003

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