Friday, July 25, 2008

The Game

I used to go early to school. Not because I was a diligent, responsible, rule fearing student. But because I knew there was a game waiting to be played at school.

I don’t think anyone other than us actually obsessed over this game at 16.

Ah yes the whole class had an obsession over chess. Every morning we’d rush to class to play or watch someone play the game. That was the only reason we went to school early.

If you’ve been around the blog long enough you’d have read this before, for the rest you should read this before you continue.

The funny thing is after I left school, I had no one to play chess with. Apparently it wasn’t the coolest game but that never stopped me from telling people I loved the game. Its been at least 10 years since I played chess.

A few weeks back I stumbled on a book with an interesting title – The Eight by Katherine Neville.

The book combines mystery, history, the number eight, chess, music and maths into this extraordinary plot. While I love the plot, I do believe this over a decade old book could do with a good edit, the writer has a tendency of repeating herself one too many times. I guess seeing the success of the Da Vinci Code, the publishers decided to republish the book.

The story is set told parallel to two events that take place in the '70's and the late 18th century. What connects them together is both the main characters search for the legendary Charlemagne chess set which was a gift to King Charlemagne by the Moors. The chess set which was buried in abbey till history and political turmoil forced it to be removed from its 1000 year prison and spread across France, is said to possess mystical powers.

Now the story tells the quest of the pieces and the white and black team players to find and discover the secrets of the chess set. What is interesting is how they connect maths, music, chess and the number eight.

For anyone who has learnt music, after a certain stage you would have realized that music is basically repeating set of notes set into a mathematical pattern, occasionally some could even be turned into an elaborate formula. Vice versa as one of the character in the story a composer reveals, even chess moves which are based on mathematical formulas, and mathematical formulas can be turned into a music score.

It makes you wonder if any of our ancient musical scores had hidden messages in them. I guess the possibilities are endless or infinite just as how the number 8 resembles.

The book connects nuns, Catherine the great, napoleon, woodswort, French revolutionaries, the massacre of the French revolution and many more historical figures. The names can get overwhelming after sometime. But the plot doesn’t run away from its original idea that’s why the book is worth the read. Unbelievable and definetly fiction but a good read.

Of course after reading the book I had to find out about the main character – the Charlemagne chess set. Apparently it does exist just its carved off ivory and not gold and silver set with precious stones like the book describes. The interesting point by historians is King Charlemagne never played chess.

I believe the book is definitely fiction, it does not make you rethink history like Da vinci Code did but like I said a very good plot just so in need of an edit.

Oh the best part of all I finally managed to play chess again. Unfortunately I don't think I'll ever win a game, all i can do is delay the process. Darn!


-naga- said...

Aiks we play chess online?

I love chess but its a pity I can't find people to play.. they say its too long and boring.. arrghh!!

selvi said...

me too... but no one is interested to play chess at home...

we use to go to school early... but not to play chess... but to play galah panjang...

visithra said...

naga : me no like playing with a computer ;p

yeah no one actually plays it - yes tell me about it - so frustating

selvi : same here - oooh that we did in primary school ;)