March 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

Ah, how I love the French. News came out this week of an amazing heist that was almost pulled off in the clandestine, seductive world of international chess. A young French player devised an ingenious plan whereby his buddy would watch his games live online and enter his mate’s board positions into a chess super-computer. The nerd-machine would then produce the move with the highest probability of success. At that point the friend would text it to another guy, using the standard letters-and-numbers formula (you know, C3PO to R2D2, that kind of thing). Now here’s where it gets clever: the ChessFrogs (technical term) had set up a numbering system for all the tables in the room where the tournament was being held; when the text came through, the guy receiving the move on his phone would simply walk by the appropriate tables, communicating the letters and numbers to his buddy who would cast a discreet glance in his partner’s direction. You’d think his opponent (or anyone else in the room) might have noticed but, alas, chess is not poker, people. You play the ball, not the man.

Here’s where it doesn’t get clever. Remember that phone that the guy in the room is checking, waiting for the moves to come through? It, uh… wasn’t his. Who did it belong to, I hear you say? Oh, only one of the, er… top officials in the French chess federation. Yup. I’m not sure how the crook managed to get it from her, but when she got it back, she noticed hundreds of texts with moves in them and thought things might be a little rotten in the French quarter of Denmark. All hell broke loose (you know how maniacal chess players can get) and the crims involved were suspended.

Great stuff. Which got me thinking about the game. Damn homoerotic, if you ask me. People have come up with many theories as to why chess is played much more frequently by men. The most common theory promulgated by academics is conditioning- boys are encouraged to participate in games that are militaristic in nature: cobs and robbers, cowboys and indians, Blackwater mercenaries and defenseless, disenfranchized Iraqis- okay, only Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfy played that one, but you get my point.

The academics are dead wrong. It has nothing to do with conditioning. You know why? Because most of the time us men indulge in mental or physical gladiator sports, we’re not doing it because someone told us to. We’re doing it because we have a deep need to express our latent homosexuality, burning away under all that machismo.

I know, you need empirical evidence. Fine. Let’s go down the list. Where are men who’ve never met sent to play chess? To parks, for god’s sake. Lone men who don’t know each other meeting in public parks? Not gay at all.

What about the pieces themselves? They’re all gay. The only fully heterosexual one is the castle, or Rook, as pretentious chess geeks like to call it. This short, squarish character can only move in straight lines; is so straight, in fact, that there’s a move designed solely to get him close to the queen, the only female piece on the board: it’s called ‘castling’. Basically, what happens is that the rampantly homosexual king wants to go out cruising, but he needs to disguise himself as a tough straight man, so he ‘castles’ with his rook, which means he tells the rook he can sleep with his wife in exchange for his clothes and ID. The rook is delighted by this transaction until he finds out what being ‘castled’ really means. The joke is then complete when the rook shows up at the queen’s bedchamber to find out that the queen can go anywhere, move any which way and take anyone she likes. In earlier versions of the game the rook actually committed suicide and was taken off the board once he realized he’d allowed himself to be rogered by a gay monarch for nothing.

Then there’s the bishop.

Moving on.

The knight, or… ‘horse’ is an interesting one. He’s bi; you never quite know where he stands. One minute he’s standing in front of you, then… oy, where did he go? Suddenly he’s right behind you, whispering sweet equine nothings. Erotic if you’re into guys who resemble horses. A little off-putting otherwise.

Finally, the little pawn. This is the coup de grace. Here we are, not minding him, thinking he’s one of the few straight ones. But if you leave him alone, to follow his natural course in life, he wanders off and, just when you least expected it… our pawn has come out! He was a queen the whole time. Just needed the right moment to tell us.

Chess is gay men’s triumph over the boring, conventional, falsely and stupidly macho straight man’s world. Come to think of it, it is the ultimate rejoinder to those who supported the continuation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

It tells us in no uncertain terms: the team with the most queens left standing, wins.



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