I played a game of checkers with spare change today at Brewed Awakening on one of the square-tiled tables that extend like teeth from the south wall of the coffeehouse. I haven’t played checkers in years, so it was a bit difficult to remember good strategy, but I had a particularly stunning three-jump capture, including a newly-kinged piece of my opponent. Actually it wasn’t a King, it was the Proletariat. In the end, true to life, Marx was toppled like the stack of pennies that was his representative.
We had to play checkers because we lacked the coins to play chess (one side heads, the other tails). Our favored coin-to-piece assignment is:
Pawn — penny
Rook — nickel with a dime on top
Knight — nickel with a penny on top
Bishop — penny with a dime on top
King — quarter
Queen — quarter with a nickel on top
In total, $1.27 per side, which is a bit steep, but the chess set comes rife with symbolism.
The nickel is the thick weight of cultural expectations and mores. The queen is weighed down with the nickel, but it is this burden which makes her strong. The penny is the common person, the Public, pawns in our struggle. The knight then is a person elevated, riding atop the cultural expectations. It is not a glorious position. Regular movement in the straighforward manner of pawns is forbidden. Instead the knight is shifty, representing an individual who manipulates culture and dodges responsibility. The dime symbolizes religion in its multifarious forms. The bishop, high in the hierarchy, uses religion to oppress and keep down the people. The rook represents the high tower on which religion places itself as the arbiter of cultural mores.
As you can see, with this symbology we can see chess for what it really is. It is not a mere game with which to pass the time, but a model for the clash of contemporary societies, slaughtering pawns in an eternal struggle for the board, which in the end is an empty plain, devoid of the corpses which are conveniently whisked away at the instant of death.
UPDATE: spelling fixed — sometimes I wonder what all this “education” was for.