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 The Game of Chess


Once upon a time... in faraway Persia there was a King who had a beautiful
wife and a handsome son called Gav. Life was all sunshine as far as he was
concerned, but not for long.
One day, as he was going hunting, he fell from his horse and was killed.
Women in Persia could not succeed to the throne and so the dead ruler's brother
was proclaimed King. He was a prince called May. He fell in love with the
widowed Queen and married her. She gave him a son whose name was Talend. Alas,
some time later, the new King died and there only remained the Queen with the
two sons, brothers of couse, but with different fathers. The question was soon
"Which brother will become King of Persia?" "It will be Gav," was one reply,
"because he is the elder." But others said, "It will be Talend, because he is
the son of our last King." The Queen herself said nothing at all.
However, sooner or later, she would have to come to a decision, and she did
not want to disappoint either Gav or Talend. As long as the two boys were
small, it didn't matter, but when they started to grow up and began to ask
when one or the other was going to be crowned King, the problems began. The
Queen couldn't make up her mind. When the ministersasked her to make a choice,
she would reply,
"Yes, I will do it tommorow..." and so the years went by.
Gav and Talend became young men, and rivals. As children they were always
together, as youths, they saw little of each other, indeed, they kept out of
each other's way. Each had his own set of friends. In that way, two sides were
formed, one supporting Talend, the other supporting Gav. The ministers were
very worried, and now insisted that the Queen choose the King. But she couldn't
bring herself to do this, for fear of disappointing one of her dearly loved
Some years later, the kingdom drifted towards what is known as civil war,
for the two princes did not see eye to eye, neither wanted to give up the
throne, neither wanted to step down. Some of the provinces sided with Talend,
others with Gav. Certain battalions in the army swore allegiance to Talend,
others to Gav. The two young men met, but only to stare at each other coldly
and to promise war instead of peace, and war was fast approaching. Two
opposing armies were built up, consisting of weapons, money, horses and
elephants, very important in Persia, for they carried on their backs a
wickerwork turret from which the archers fired arrows at the enemy. Gav's army
began to march against Talend's. All Persia held its breath,awaiting the battle
that was to decide its fate.
The battle was fought. both armies had the same number of foot soldiers,
standard bearers and elephants. It was a terrible massacre. Neither of the
brothers wanted the other to die. In spite of everything, the brothers felt the
call of the family tie. Indeed, each had given an order that, if the soldiers
found they were about to kill the enemy leader, they were to stop and warn him
instead by shouting,
"Watch out, King!" The conflict lasted for a long time, until Gav's troops
were overcome and Talend found himself with only a few soldiers to defend him.
Then, a little later, quite alone, he found himself surrounded on all sides by
Gav's turreted elephants, slowly advancing on him. No arrows were fired on the
prince, he turned his way and that, searching for a way to escape, but his
heart failed at that moment and he fell dead to the ground.
High in the palace tower, the Queen had watched the battle with sorrow in
her heart, knowing full well that she was, at that moment, losing one of her
sons. But which one? It didn't matter. She loved them both equally. When she
saw that the dust had settled on the distant plain and the cries of battle had
died away, the Queen came down from the tower and rushed through the palace to
meet those returning from the field. She stopped in her tracks. Her son Gav,
his clothes in tatters and slashed with blood, staggered sadly towards her.
"Talend?" stammered the Queen. Gav shook his head,
"Oh, mother," he said, "my brother Talend is dead."
"Dead! Did you kill him?"
"Oh, no, mother!" exclaimed Gav. "I would never have done such a thing."
"But you ordered his death!" exclaimed the Queen. The young man then knelt
before her and, taking the hem of her dress in his hand, said,
"Mother, I swear nobody was responsible for my brother's death. He died, but
not violently."
"I shall never believe that is the truth," wept the Queen. But Gav said,
"I shal prove that it is." He then thought of a way to show his mother how
the battle had been fought. First of all, he asked a carpenter to make him a
board, as flat as the plain. Then to mark the positions and manoeuvres of the
two armies, the board was divided into white and black squares. A wood carver
made him a minature army of foot soldiers, a king, standard bearers, knights
and towers, to take the place of the elephants and their turrets. When
everything was ready, Gav called the Queen and, moving one piece at a time,
acted out the various stages of battle.
"You see, mother, my foot soldiers advanced like this, so Talend manoeuvred
his like that. Each time my brother was about to be killed, I had the men cry
out `watch out, King,' so that he could reach safety," said Gav.
"In the end, though, my Talend was no longer safe," murmured the Queen. Gav
sadly replied,
"That's true. He was surrounded. But I would never have had him killed,
mother. It was his heart that gave out. My brother realised he had lost, and so
he died." The Queen then said,
"I understand, son, and I forgive you. I feel you'll be a good king for our
country. But I wonder why, in a battle between two kings, one must win and the
other lose..."
The poor Queen kept asking herself the same question for a very long time.
She would sit all day long beside the little battlefield moving the pieces,
foot soldiers, standard bearers and towers, always trying to save the King. In
the end, she understood that, as in make-believe, so it is in real life, when
there is a fight to the last, one of the opponents must fall, just as her son
Talend had fallen.
One day, they found the poor Queen dead on what was, by then, known as the
chessboard. That is how chess originated. Nowadays it is a peaceful contest
that recalls a real-life battle. Today it is fun, but then it caused a poor
mother who saw her sons fight against each other, sadness and suffering...

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