Strategy and Literature

Pop Lit Fiction

WE’VE BEEN THINKING a lot of late about games and strategy. About what we’re doing right and the literary mainstream is doing wrong– or more often, the size of the obstacle they represent and what we’re doing imperfectly in hoping to compete with them. In such discussions, the strategy of chess comes to mind.

AT PRESENT we’re behaving like a tentative chess player pushing pawns forward, hoping to find or create an opening– which, if one ever appears, we’ll need to jump through with all forces, talents, words, and arguments at our disposal.

WHICH BRINGS US TO our new featured story,  “I May Have Been a Chess World Champion” by talented international writer Eva Ferry. It’s ostensibly about chess and chess players, but it’s about more than that. A metaphor for– ? The story carries the atmosphere of a spy novel. It evokes the feeling of hopelessness, dread, expectation and fear which engulfs the culture now, perhaps the entire world. But it’s only about chess. Or is it?

The men in the Centre were saggy, they were not handsome by anyone’s standards. But the beauty of their effort, their perfect commitment was real.

I wanted to be real too. That’s why I told the man from upstairs that I would be going to the tournament, even if that was the last thing I did in my life.

Speaking of terrific writers and writing, at the All-Time American Writers Tournament there’s a new Appreciation, this one by Robin Wyatt Dunn about Gene Wolfe. What strong writing looks like. Only 437 words but it’s dynamite.
Painting: “The Chess Player” by Frederich August Moritz Retzsch.


Third-Way Fiction

Connor Philips gives us a story about chess and female psychology today, NPL readers. You can learn a lot if you’re Studious.


He moves his king pawn one place ahead, I move my king pawn two. His queen diagonal to the edge, I use what foresight he taught me, I don’t want to stack my pawns so I push my rook pawn to face his queen. He can take it if he wants to relinquish his queen and I can free my pawn. His King bishop out four places– he didn’t fall for the trap. I want his queen! King knight forward two left one, “Your queen’s under attack,” I say smugly, either he will back off or lose his queen.


The Chess Game (1555) by Sofonisba Anguissola.