During graduate school, my roommate and I taught ourselves basic Chess strategy, although I have rarely played it since discovering “German games” and I am far from a grandmaster. It is fascinating for me, at this stage in my gaming life, to rediscover the beauty of this game. And there is also something exciting about playing the game with an Arab man. After all, Chess may never have become the world’s most studied board game had it not been for the Arabs, who, after conquering Persia, adopted the game and brought it to Europe. In fact, they still refer to it by its Persian name, Shatranj.
Nuradin believes strongly in tolerance for all world views. Although he is Muslim, he has read the Bible and western philosophers such as Kant and Kierkegaard. But Chess is a war simulation. We advance our pieces, as each of us positions ourselves to take control of the middle territory. I think about the advances and retreats taking place this very moment in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there is no more room, and multiple pieces are captured. The death toll rises and the table next to the game board fills up with casualties. The board remains clean, devoid of actual bloodshed. Even so, I can’t help but project the images of my friend’s ruined city, Aleppo, onto the white and black squares. Can anyone win this game? My friend shakes me out of my daydream with a warm smile, as he says to me encouragingly, “You are getting better.”
This is an excerpt for an article I recently wrote for the premier boardgame magazine, Counter. you can download and read the full article and many others here: