Chess: Good Game, Bad Plot

by | Jun 22, 2023 | My Author Scrapheap | 0 comments

Chess is having something of a minor resurgence these days (all things being relative, it’s probably still less popular than the average pay-to-win mobile game). I’ve been playing at a half-assed level since I was a kid, so my books have often used chess as a metaphor or an example of a game that exists across many eras (including well into the future). But one day, I tried to make it the focus of at story, and I took it too far.

Chess is Life

Translate a classic chess match into the outline of a story of intrigue and murder. Two rival factions (black and white) vie to take out one another’s leader (king) via a series of threats, checks, and captures, culminating in checkmate. Grand scale. Similar to how GoT is based on the War of the Roses.

Sure. Just adapt it like Game of Thrones. I’m sure I didn’t mean it quite the way it sounds when I wrote it, but let me just point out a few of the flaws at work.

First of all, if people could just slap out a Game of Thrones novel, it would happen all the time. Frankly, even the guy whose who gig is writing them hasn’t published one in over a decade. And I wouldn’t put myself in the front 100 of the line to write the next.

Then, of course, is the fact that the War of the Roses is a twisted, complex historical event in a time period that’s fairly well documented. There’s source material to work from. There are characters, plots, relationships to reskin as a new story. Chess… well, there are 32 characters, most of whom don’t get speaking roles.

Lastly, there’s the limited appeal of the base concept. It’s one thing to come up with a wacky premise and apply it to a known quantity. But who does this whole “chess as a novel” idea appeal to? I think diehard chess nerds would be the first to tell you that there’s no reason to make this.

I think I’ll stick to using chess for its intended purpose: as a code to make characters look smart in fiction.

Go play some online chess, and you’ll see what I mean.

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