Sherab Lhamo

Bhutan’s first ever living chess game will take place at ELC High School, Thimphu on November 11 at 10am.

Living chess or human chess is a form of chess in which people take the place of the chess pieces on a large chessboard.

Living chess was first played in 1454 in Marostica,northern Italy. Then, two noblemen fell in love with the daughter of the Lord of Marostica. They challenged each other to a duel for the daughter’s hand, but the Lord forbade them from the duel to avoid becoming enemies if one of them lost.

Instead, the Lord decided that the two noblemen to play a chess game, a living chess. The game took place on the square in front of the lower castle in the presence of all the people.

Even to this day, the game is being played, and the tradition has spread across the world.

The small town of Strobeck in Germany is devoted to chess and even has a stone 600 sq.ft chess board in the town plaza. The game is being played yearly.

Jane Hancock, a chess teacher in ELC, the one who brought the idea to Bhutan, said that she wanted to create living chess here in 2019 but unfortunately due to the pandemic she could not.

“In September 2022, plans started to slowly evolve to create living chess,”she added.

The entire staff is involved in making this possible with 32 students as chess pieces. The chess board is made of strong material of around 600 sq.ft like the one in Germany, according to Jane.

ELC students have been studying chess since September 2022.

The students have been rehearsing for the last two months.

“They are extremely prepared for the game,” said Jane.

The costumes for the living chess are based on Bhutanese culture; the chess pieces, including the king,queen,two bishops, two knights, and two rooks will be dressed up in traditional attire representing the hierarchy role. The pawns too will wear cultural decorations.

Yangcchen Pelmo and Tshewang Loday, the facility staff, are the designers, who have been working for months on the design aspect of the game.

According to Jane, chess is an important activity for developing students’ critical and strategic thinking, helping to develop critical thinking and good sportsmanship. Some studies on chess have concluded that chess players tend to have better memory, attention spans, and overall brain function.