Sunday, July 13, 2014

Just a Game of (Chinese) Chess . . .

Instead of thinking about Israel and Hamas all day, as I am wont to do, in the course of ruminating about the tangled origins of Arab-Israeli enmity, I went to Harvard Sq., got parking, and laid out my Xiangqi  (Chinese Chess) board. I spotted an Asian man with family — adult children plus gaggle of tots, who looked at me like they were just getting used to the eerie sight of Westerners — at a nearby table, and held up a piece — a pawn, I think — by way of invitation. 
A pawn, I think

It may well be that I’m reporting on this game only because, as it happens, I won, a rare occurrence when I play Xiangqi with Chinese elders. We each made a blunder or two — in every case offering each other the chance to take back ill-considered moves — and it seemed a draw was coming

Then my opponent went for broke, throwing caution to the winds and putting my king — or "general" as it is often called in Xiangqi — in check with his horse. He was obviously counting on my "eating" his horse with my guard, which would have left my chariot undefended against his chariot bearing immediately down upon it. Chariots (the equivalents of rooks) being the most potent pieces in Xiangqi, I would have been doomed. What he missed was that my chariot, though under fire, was free to snatch up and eat his attacking horse, which it did like it was starving

The Horse I ate.
We laughed, and shook hands. He knew this was the kind of blunder it is unsportsmanlike to take back, though I immediately offered him the chance.

After more smiles and handshakes, he put one of grandtots on his shoulders and marched off with his family.

Bet you think there is a moral to this story. Like games are good, war is bad. Or, as compared to another sport getting much attention, there is no such thing as a chess hooligan, a Xiangqi thug.

Nah. It's just a story about a game of (Chinese) Chess.

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