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Graham

Chess and the Mythos

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Graham

Chess games were very popular during the 1920's and I'm surprised that no one has used one in some way during a scenario or campaign, the game in it's modern form ("the mad queen's game") dates back to the 1470's. (Link to a simulation of a game created for a 15th century poem)

 

I recently stumbled across an article about someone who wrote several major books on chess who disappeared in strange circumstances.

 

He had talked of hearing beautiful but mysterious music, and on a card found on his desk was written, “If he don’t stop that machine I’ll go insaneâ€.

Disappeared: D.A. Mitchell

 

What strange algebra had he unleashed in his studies...

 

I leave the floor open to further discussion.

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fubarinpa

This is an interesting idea.

 

Back in high school I read a book about aliens disguised as humans who came to earth. They "befriend" a boy and play a board game in which depending on the outcome of the game entire worlds are either saved or destroyed.

 

Perhaps the fate of the universe is decided the same way.

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WarLokk

This is amazing stuff. I think I am going to start to write a Trail of Cthulhu scenario . . .

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zonk

Any time that article says anything about "The King," my mind immediately jumps to the one who sports yellow. This DOES have the makings of a great scenario.

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Graham

The more I re-read the article the easier it is to put sinister connotations on quotes like this:

 

‘Young Mr Student, permit me to introduce you to old Mr Chess, but before doing so let me warn you that the old gentleman will seem at times rather complex and extremely hard to know. After having become acquainted with him, however, you will find that, like most tried and true friends, he will be the means of giving you many a pleasant hour, and the longer you are associated with him, the greater will become your desire to know him better.’

 

From D.A Mitchells original chess book which is available through both Google books and the Internet archive.

 

1. Mitchell's Guide to the game of chess at Google Books

 

2. Mitchell's Guide to the game of chess the Internet Archive

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Beyond03

A counterpoint to Mitchell's pleasant little introduction:

 

The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the most absorbing of occupations, the least satisfying of desires, an aimless excrescence upon life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us say, a promising politician, a rising artist, that you wish to destroy. Dagger or bomb are archaic, clumsy, and unreliable -- but teach him, inoculate him with chess! -- H. G. Wells, "Concerning Chess", 1898.

(complete essay)

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Graham
A counterpoint to Mitchell's pleasant little introduction:

 

And the modification I was thinking of...

 

‘Young Mr Student, permit me to introduce you to Hastur, but before doing so let me warn you that the old gentleman will seem at times rather complex and extremely hard to know. After having become acquainted with him, however, you will find that, like most tried and true friends, he will be the means of giving you many a pleasant hour, and the longer you are associated with him, the greater will become your desire to know him better.’

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Cthulhudude

When I first glanced at this subject line I thought it said “Cheese and Mythosâ€. Oh, how the mind reeled. :)

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SunlessNick

Chess and Hastur don't seem like a great match; I lean more towards Nyarlathotep as the Chess king. Maybe Yog-Sothoth as the rook (the modern piece looks like a tower, while the original was a chariot, both of which are appropriate symbols).

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Bill

There must be some connection to the work of Lewis Carroll, in which a chess game serves as the organizing conceit for a little girl's experience of a bizarre alternate reality. Suppose the Red Queen were truly a King in Yellow; one could imagine a chess position of such subtle intricacy that to study it would be to open oneself up to both an obsessive consideration of its potential variations and lines of development as well as an appreciation of the deeper truths for which the moves were merely a kind of mathematical shorthand.

 

Very neat idea.

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Beyond03

When I first glanced at this subject line I thought it said “Cheese and Mythosâ€. Oh, how the mind reeled. :)

Clearly "The King in Yellow" was a misprint for "The Rind in Yellow".

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Zarozinia

Fritz Leiber (whose weird fiction I think is very underrated) wrote a fine tale of chess and cosmic horror called The Dreams of Albert Moreland. Without giving much more than is implied by the title, the narrator befriends a chess player who plays a complex variant of chess in his dreams for high stakes. I personally think it draws a lot from The Music of Erich Zann. I found it in Szumskyj and Joshi's "Fritz Leiber and H P Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark" from Wildside Press.

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Fallorn

@Bill

In my Delta Green game, I have given any MJ-12 referencing document of Delta Green's the SCI codeword "RED QUEEN".

Have you actually played Through the Looking Glass on the chess board? While the characters conform to their corresponding pieces movements on the chess board, the rules and goals they attempt to accomplish are obscure... perhaps pieces that we cannot see from our perspective as Alice the Pawn are constraining the moves, or taking turns while the narrative pauses...my but that is an apt metaphor for something lovecraftian...

I wanted to use chess to structure the second "season" of my campaign, but its incredibly daunting. Assign each major mover/shaker in the world to a chess piece, and each location to a square on the chess board... In chess classically there are only 2 sides... making certain that everything fits the story and the mythology of both the characters and the pieces...etc etc... its maddening.

Maybe I should structure it after checkers....:-P

 

@ SunlessNick

IMO:

Its all in how we define our "sides" of the chess board, if we declare its just the GOOs then Hastur is probably the King, but if we allow Outer Gods into the mix then it can only be Azathoth.

Some thoughts:

Hydra and Dagon are Knights

Nyarlathotep is the queen (seems to move and be anywhere he needs to be)

Cthulhu is a bishop (he is frequently mentioned as a high priest of the elder gods)

Yog-Sothoth is a rook (good call SunlessNick)

 

I have some Charles Stross on the mind so its worth mentioning that chess figures into the Laundry short story "Overtime" available online. (also following from my RED QUEEN codeword, any files pertaining to Cthulhu directly are marked NIGHTMARE GREEN)

 

PS - An additional look at a mystery surrounding chess I recommend The Flanders Panel.

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JHarris

It's worth noting that the published Chaosium adventure The Warren (printed in Cthulhu Classics and some earlier book I'm not aware of) contains a Cthuloid chess set. It's of no significance to the adventure, just a throw-away detail, but perhaps use could be found for it?

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Nineteen-Delta

Once upon a time, our team of investigators used the chess set in 'The Warren' said chess set to initiate new recruits. If you could play a game and not go insane, you are of strong enough mind to become a full fledged feild investigator. If you wigged out, you were given book duties. In the end, the chess set came out of the safe at the institute where they worked, and two of the characters made a move each time they visited the office. IIRC Cthulhu was the king, and the pawns were deep-ones. - though this might have been the Keeper's version. Might I suggest Nodens-and-Nightgaunts puling his chariot as the rooks? OR Father Dagon and Mother Hydra as king and queen?

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Graham
Once upon a time, our team of investigators used the chess set in 'The Warren' said chess set to initiate new recruits. If you could play a game and not go insane...

 

‘Variations of the following weird theme have appeared in a number of British and American newspapers. We reproduce without comment:

 

“In a chess tournament at Jurata, Poland, a contestant, Willy Frydmann, lost a game then went raving mad.”’

 

CHESS, 14 October 1937

 

cn7084_frydmann.jpg

 

The Oregonian, 10 June 1937

 

Looks like someone failed...

 

For more information see:

 

'Fun'. Edward Winter

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GrahamW
Chess games were very popular during the 1920's and I'm surprized that no one has used one in some way during a scenario or campaign, the game in it's modern form ("the mad queen's game") dates back to the 1470's.

 

I did this in The Dead White World. The history of chess is a significant part of the scenario.

 

The scenario ends...

 

 

...with a huge boardgame.

 

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SunlessNick

Chess is the only boardgame I know of where someone is said to have committed murder to stop a secret about it from getting out; a story told by Capablanca (or more precisely, a story told by someone whose name escapes me, claiming that Capablanca told it to him).

 

[A Russian peasant came to Capablanca one night claiming to discovered a great chess secret: an opening where White could infallibly win within a dozen moves. Capablanca played him many times as Black, but was unable to beat him. Considering that this might be because of a weakness in his own openings, he called on his rival Alekhine, but Alekhine was unable to beat the peasant either. Eventually, they concluded that the peasant's claim must be true; obviously, they then killed him so that the game could survive]

 

So how will this story figure into chess as the mirror of an occult struggle?

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eyeharvester

Interestingly, in the CoC "classic era" of the 1910s & '20s, the world of chess was being turned just as topsy-turvy as the worlds of art & the sciences. Advocates of so-called "hypermodern" play, such as Nimzowitsch (whose Mein System is nearly as rough on the eyes as any Mythos tome), were really wanging up long-held notions of how opening play should proceed, and what the overall goal of positional play should be. They were right about a lot of things, experience has shown, but they were still really weird. Post-WWII, chess has become a mind-numbing game of detailed analysis & move-crunching; many of the most important openings have been extensively mapped out down to the 20th or 25th move, and so many Grandmaster level games are (for their first half, at least) nowadays repeats of games already played. There is a lot of talk in the air of Chess being essentially "dead", and that something radical needs to be done to make it interesting again, like completely changing the rules. However, this was certainly not the case during the '20s, and the hypermodernists had an almost cabalistic interest in philosophizing about chess. It was an exciting and odd time, full of intense rivalries & new theories.

 

It is also worth noting that in the 1920s avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp abandoned the field of art entirely, turning instead to chess as his vocation for essentially the rest of his life. This alone seems like an interesting hook for a Chess-and-Hastur based Cthuvian game.

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Graham

Apologies for reviving a thread seven years after the last post (Is this a record...?) but I found a description of a legendary game of chess, that while not Mythosy, is something that could be used to trip up unwary PCs in the wilds of Europe during the Classic Era (Remember, the United States is a 'Dry' country.) and was just too good to pass up.

 

 

‘Lasker is said to have won a game of “Alcoholic Chess†by sacrificing his queen in ridiculous fashion at the very outset of the game. The queen contained about a quarter litre of cognac; quaffing this seriously incapacitated his opponent in the ensuing complications – B.H. Wood.’

 

For details of this legendary game and one other in the Gaslight era where Champagne was King, Claret was Queen, Burgundy the Bishops, Port the Castles & Madeira the Knights ... See the following page:

 

http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/alcohol.html

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deuce

Fritz Leiber (whose weird fiction I think is very underrated) wrote a fine tale of chess and cosmic horror called The Dreams of Albert Moreland. Without giving much more than is implied by the title, the narrator befriends a chess player who plays a complex variant of chess in his dreams for high stakes. I personally think it draws a lot from The Music of Erich Zann. I found it in Szumskyj and Joshi's "Fritz Leiber and H P Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark" from Wildside Press.

I read that just a few months ago. A fine tale. I very much agree with your take on it.

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