Check out Alice Chess, our featured variant for June, 2024.


We are no other than a moving row
Of visionary shapes that come and go
But helpless pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days,
Hither and thither moves and checks and slays
And one by one back in the closet lays.

--Omar Khayyam, 'Rubuiyat'
Provide ship or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will not fear even that void. for those who will come shortly to attempt this journey, let us establish the astronomy, Galileo, you of Jupiter, I of the Moon.

--Johannes Kepler, open letter to Galileo, 1610

Mercury the Bishop, Venus the Queen
Mars Knight, Saturn Rook, Jupiter the King--
Caissa's seeming motions like as orbits seen,
The playing field on Earth, each trailing ring
About Sol shapes sun Falcon's hidden paths, 
Bodies streaming equal timed and spaced swaths.

Sol: The Pleiades whose seventh's star's in hiding,
Occulted first then visible again,
Like to classic Chess and Falcon's biding 
Time -- seventh and final link in the chain -- 
Sure as motion follows least resistance
And Gravity's the inverse square of distance.

Luna: Move like an electron within a cloud
Of probability: all pathways trod
But just one path emerges from the crowd,
As if some interacting gamester god
Can turn particles and Pawns to spinning
And not tell before the play who's winning.

Mars: Leaping the distance and not standing idle
A seminal move between fiction and fact,
Equus and Falcon throwing off the bridle,
The sharp chain and ring twixt intention and act--
The war-games, plain Horse sense enough to shift course
Just looking into the mouth of a gift Horse.

Mercury: Who fears to herald an imminent dauphin?
Like planets, could Chess morph through time and space?
How to cast the last nail in the coffin,
Freeing the spirit beginning the race?
What if celestial alignment matches
The 'forty-nights-and-days' eighty watches?

Jupiter: 'For want of a nail' conjures up 'lost Kingdom.' 
Are planets and stars (as rough analogues)
Cognizant that their inventions spring from
The Whole of those pieces Nature catalogues?
At this point it may even be premature
To say Sphinx itself's not a vast portraiture.

Venus: Dead ringer for that enduring enigma, 
Nebulous shapes in the vicinity
Newly-formed jargon eclipses the stigma;
An inner-game reprise of Infinity
Holding these tenets up to close scrutiny,
Posing a riddle to stave off a mutiny.

Saturn: A befitting tribute from each denizen,
This panegyric coursing past Saturn
Towards the foreseeable event horizon,
(Even Chaos exhibits a pattern)
And one erudite saw, by so and so:
Here's yet another 'final row to hoe.'

George William Duke 2002

Written by George William Duke.
WWW page created: June 6, 2002.