by Ruby Roy Varghese
(Cochin, Kerala India)
I am a writer from the subcontinent India. I am writing a few tales from the past, for you to read. In ancient India chess was called Chaturanga. History states that chess originated from India. India was a land of Maharajas and chess was a royal game.
There was a king who ruled the southern tip of India, called Travancore (now the state of Kerala). This king had a craze for chess. He used to rope in anyone who was willing to play chess with him. The only condition was that he should always win. So everybody who knew, allowed this instead of displeasing him.
One day a chess master from another country came to his kingdom who did not know this rule. The king invited him for a game of chess. Without knowing the consequences of defeating the king he started to play. The king was losing the game, and knowing the plight of the chess master, the queen who was rocking the cradle of her baby began to croon a song. This was actually a hint for the king in their language to push the pawn in front to save the queen. The king accordingly made the right move and won the game.
The queen was an expert player and to save the chess master from the king's wrath, she had helped the king to win. The king was really thrilled with the queens song, that made him win the game. The king asked the court poet to make a lyric with her song.
Another is an adaption from the Mahabharatha stories, the great epic of India. During this time in the royal court chess was played as a game if won, could defeat kings and conquer kingdoms without bloodshed. In this tale Yudhistra, the Pandava king was fond of chess. Chess at that time had not acquired today's polished format. Here Yudhistra's rival king Duryodhana entered in a wager with him. He challenged Yudhistra to a game, for both kingdoms. The wicked Duryodhana cheated him with the help of his cunning uncle. Thus Yudhistra lost everything to his rival.
Next is a modern era story which my grandmother told me. This was about my grandfather who was a avid chess lover. If anybody made fun of him, he would never mind, but say something against chess, and he would really get angry. He used to call it a game of the intelligent. One day his friend challenged him and said that any fool with practice could win the game. My grandfather was very angry and asked him to train any fool, so that he could play against him.
Accordingly after one month he brought his sixteen year old son, after teaching him all the rules of chess. The wager was if his novice son could defeat him he would give him his two acres of coconut grove. They both played the game continuously, only taking time to eat. My grandmother cooked a delicious lunch. The boy ate it with relish to his full. The boy began to feel drowsy. Taking advantage of this my grandfather deftly made some moves and won the game and saved his coconut grove.