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Live Chess Match Pits East Against West

By Jessie Fredlund ’07


Ninjas vs. pirates, 2003

Can King Arthur defeat Garuda, the Hindu firebird, in a battle to the death? Will Japanese demons Oni and Tengu triumph over the Norse Valkyries?

This Saturday, Oct. 21, as part of Family Weekend, the Smith Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (SSFFS) will stage these unlikely battles of epic proportion in a live-action, human chess match, pitting folklore and ancient mythology from the East against that of the West.

The war begins at 1 p.m. on Seelye Lawn. In case of rainy weather, the games will move to the Davis Ballroom.

Participants will dress as their favorite characters from Eastern and Western mythologies. Following directions from players Shain Neumeier ’09 (representing Western) and Lauren Myers-Wong ’07 (Eastern), the live chess pieces will act out battles to gain control of 3-by-3-foot squares on a super-sized chessboard.

Leading characters on the Eastern side will feature Hindu deities as the king and queen, the Japanese Sun Goddess as a bishop, and the Japanese Radish God as a rook.


Past players await their fate on the chessboard

The Western team will be lead by King Arthur and Queen Mab, as their respective game pieces. Other key pieces include bishop Titania, the fairy queen, a vampire rook and the four horsemen of the apocalypse as pawns.

Costumes are often elaborate and are one of participants’ favorite aspects of the event, says Eleanor Rosenthal ’07, SSFFS president.

A Family Weekend tradition, live-action chess has been an annual event since 2000. Each year, friends and family of participants gather with other Smithies to watch the matches unfold.

Past themes have included Harry Potter versus Lord of the Rings; pirates versus ninjas; American cartoons versus Japanese anime; and the dead versus immortals.

Although several of the recent years have ended in 1:1 ties, the ninjas wiped out the pirates in 2003, a dark day in the memory of then-pirates like Rosenthal.

Despite her previous defeats, Rosenthal is enthusiastic about this year’s games, but declined to speculate about which team will triumph Saturday.

10/19/06   
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