Tough Travels – Chess Masters


Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is CHESS MASTERS

A true master knows where all the pieces are at all times.  Others may think they have taken control but alas, the master knew their last move before they played it.

I have a confession; I have no idea how to play chess. Don’t get me wrong I know all the rules (even the one about castling) but have not played against a human in probably twenty years. I tried to teach it to my wife early in the marriage but ultimately decided a happy marriage was much more important than a chess partner.  I would like to think though, that if push came to shove, I could control the whole world around me.

The Blackcollar (Blackcollar, #1)LatheBlackcollar by Timothy Zahn – In a different time I considered Zahn to be my favorite author. He wrote space adventures that were often a bit smarter than the rest of the bad cover sci-fi I found. And if there was one thing he was known for it was super genius characters controlling EVERYTHING. His best known creation is probably Grand Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars who certainly fits the chess master profile. But for me, I decided to with Lathe.

Lathe knows EVERYTHING that is happening. We first meet him as an unassuming old man reliving glory days but that is just a façade. In reality he will be the most important piece in the resistance against the Ryqril; big leathery aliens that have enslaved humanity. Watch him moves his pawns into place; don’t ignore that bishop just because he is moving the queen. This is old school sci-fi, manly men doing manly things, but I reread it last year and still found it enjoyable.

BayazThe First Law by Joe Abercrombie – Perhaps the worst kept spoiler in fantasy, Bayaz is a nasty piece of work. He presents as a kindly old wizard, though without the frail old man look. But he has his hands in everything. Using the most powerful force in the world (money, not magic) he deftly controls every single important person in the land. He would probably control it all but Abercrombie remembers that chess is played by two people.

Bobby Fischer, meet Boris Spassky. And when chess is played with nations, war is the only course of action.

PhedreKushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey –This is an odd one because in actuality Phedre starts off not as a player but as one of the pieces; a powerful one such as the queen but a piece none the less. But she watches from her position on the board as two power chessmasters square off. And when the hand playing her side, mentor and man she loves, can no longer play? The student must become a player.

Safe to say, by the time it is all over, there will be a rematch or two between the players Young Miles (Vorkosigan Omnibus, #2)left in the game.   Can’t wait to read another one of these books.

MilesVorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold – Not your typical chessmaster in that he does start anywhere in control. But Miles plays the game I play Mariokart; just because you are a little behind now doesn’t mean some furious maneuvering won’t get you back in the front. He takes control of an entire mercenary group with nothing more than MaGuyver like tools.   He gets his poor cousin Ivan in way over his head; time and time again. But on top he ends up through sheer cunning, each and every time.

Join us next week as we look at VAMPIRES

VAMPIRES are increasingly rare on the TOUR.  They have been attracted over tot he Horror Tour by offers of better pay.  Where they appear, you will find up to date Vampires wear expensive sunglasses and wish to drain you of energy rather than blood.

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

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