Definitions

Human chess

Human chess

Human chess is a variant of chess, often played at Renaissance Fairs, where people take on the roles of the various chess pieces (king, knight, bishop, etc.). This is typically done on an outdoor field, with the squares of the board marked out on the grass. Many Human Combat Chess Matches are choreographed stage shows performed by actors trained in stage combat. A move resulting in a piece being taken from the board will cause a choreographed fight to be played out to determine whether the piece is actually taken. Alternatively, the pieces may spar following rules similar to those used by the SCA. It can also be referred as in a wrestling match or a judo fight.

An historical human chess game is staged every two years in the Italian city of Marostica near Venice. The first of such games was played in 1923. It remembers a legendary (possibly fictional) chess game played in 1454 by two young gentlemen to settle who should woo the fair lady both were in love with.

In fiction

Human chess also appears in written fiction, such as in Alice Through the Looking Glass, Pawn in Frankincense and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as well as on television in The Prisoner episode Checkmate and ''The Simpsons episode Tennis the Menace.

This term may also refer to political maneuvering between individuals and/or groups that resemble a chess match.

In computer games

Computer chess programs have often simulated living chess matches with animations of combat between pieces. The first and most infamous of these games was Battle Chess by Interplay, released in 1988, which featured comical but bloody battles between animated characters. Other variations include pop culture icons such as Star Wars Chess. The most popular commercial chess program on the market today, Chessmaster, features an option to use animated 3D pieces that assault one another.

Many video games have included chess themed levels, such as American McGee's Alice and World of Warcraft, which have incorporated chess iconography and some chess rules, but usually do not simulate an actual game.

Cosplay human chess

In 2004, Metrocon created and hosted the first ever anime human chess match. It was pre-scripted and used choreographed combat which resulted in a new type of anime stage show.

Since then, other anime conventions ranging in size from Anime Boston to Manifest began featuring cosplay human chess, in which the chess pieces are people cosplaying as anime or video game characters. Some cosplay chess matches have themes for the teams, such as Good vs. Evil, Shounen vs. Shoujo, Occult vs. Science or Angst vs. Sugar. Often those running the match and controlling the chess boards are also in costume.

Depending on the convention, the game of chess may be pre-scripted or improvisational, and its format may vary a great deal. The Anime Human Chess performed at Metrocon is a wholly preplanned stage show. Each year's cast members are selected by auditioning. The show is rehearsed for months in advance, with all captures and victories decided ahead of time. The fights take place with choreographed stunts and stage combat, often with live steel and special effects.

Smaller conventions such as Vericon, Connecticon, AnimeNEXT and AnimeUSA have held much simpler matches where pieces are played by volunteers who come to the convention in costume, sometimes selected only a half hour before the match, who follow a live chess game improvised by two chess players as the match continues.

Anime Boston has developed a hybrid of these two styles. There the chess pieces are convention attendees who apply in advance online and are selected, thirty-two to be pieces on the board and many more to be special attacks, which are extra characters who come out from back stage to help or interfere with a combat. These special attacks are pre-scripted, as are certain special events, in which groups of characters attack or interfere with the chess game as part of an ongoing plot line fitting the game's theme, but the order of moves and overall chess game are still improvised, as is much of the combat.

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