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Cause And Effect: Chess

A picture of a Chess board

This photograph was taken by Dan Zen.

When I wrote my post on looking for our earth’s arm of the galaxy, I didn’t envisage making a series out of it. But I found myself reading Desperate Duchesses with a note in mind of a similar sort as I did when reading Paradox – “I want to try this out”.

(Incidentally it took at least a dozen more attempts to finally view the galaxy. I have enough interest in space to have done this. My boyfriend has enough interest in the space he now has back that he will probably refrain referring to the night sky in future.)

The book in question this time is about the Georgian era, and there is plenty of nakedness and sex in it – also humour, not always separate from the sex – but not so obvious from the outset is the inclusion of chess. There was enough of the chess to reawaken my childhood love of the game. It appealed to me in particular because one of the Georgians’ games is played via notation, through correspondence, and I’ve always found that method fascinating. I can’t think of a game for which there is an exclusive method devoted to playing remotely in such a way.

Book cover

Many of the games in the book are strip games. We opted for bog-standard no-nudity Chess.

My boyfriend and I played a few matches in the early summer. He had retained his knowledge of the game; I was a hopeless case. I’m assuming my wins as a child were because my mother let me win, but then it wasn’t winning that was the issue here. I already knew my scientific-background boyfriend would wipe out my pieces – it was my inability to plan ahead that was my downfall. I used to plan five steps ahead, here I was lucky if I managed two. Yes, my opponent was better than my mother, if we factor in the unlikely possibility that I won fair and square back then (I’m rooting for this myself), but I lacked the skills to even put on a good show. Playing chess is obviously not at all like riding a bike or swimming.

Interestingly since playing against my computer later, I’ve noticed a marked difference in computer chess games since the 1998-ish one I enjoyed. Granted I’ve only since tried the version Microsoft bundles with Windows, but when comparing my younger age and wins to my older age and impossibility to get a word in edgeways, it seems chess is one area in gaming where things haven’t been dumbed down. And despite my losses I’m rather liking the glossy wood board, even if it doesn’t truly exist.

Maybe I’ll get better with practise, but even if I don’t, I’m glad Eloisa James’s raunchy characters brought me back to something I used to love. I don’t know why I stopped playing chess, but I won’t be leaving it so long next time.

I might even pile my hair up to silly heights for it.

Do you play Chess?


Jenny @ Reading the End

September 27, 2013, 1:56 am

I haven’t played chess in years and years, and I never played all that often. I like the idea of it — I mean I like chess aesthetically. It would be neat to pick it up properly, and learn about the strategies. I’d love to watch some people who are genuinely good at chess play and explain to me what they’re doing as they’re doing it.

Tanya Patrice

September 27, 2013, 2:17 am

I haven’t played in ages, but I remember having the same issue – I could think ahead one or 2 moves, but I’d get frustrated trying to keep it all straight and lose. I do love how this book – not about chess – made you think of a past hobby. And I do love some Eloisa James romance :-)

vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas)

September 28, 2013, 11:44 am

My father taught me and we played when I was a child, but I was never very good at the long view. I agree with Jenny, above, that it is wonderful to watch people who know what they’re doing and can explain it, because it can be such a thrilling game. I recently learned backgammon, however, if that counts (I am *hopeless* at it).


September 28, 2013, 8:35 pm

That’s awesome that fiction reignited an enjoyment.

I am hopeless at Chess; I have not the attention span or future planning to be successful, it’s embarrassing.


September 29, 2013, 3:14 am

I watch lots of chess. My son is a national Master and has played in tournaments since he was twelve. We’re taking a break from that now, during his first semester of college.


October 6, 2013, 7:54 pm

Now, I haven’t thought about playing chess for a very long time. Such a strategy game. Thanks for reminding me, Charlie



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