Chess Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a wonderful kingdom, with lovely meadows and a magnificent palace. The ruler of this kingdom was named King Crucifer. One day, two beautiful baby boys were born to the king and his wife, Queen Quenessa. The twins looked exactly alike. There was only one difference: one boy had hair which was as light as the sun; and the other boy had hair which was dark as the night. As the years passed, both boys became ever smarter, wiser and stronger. They spent all their time together, and their favorite pastime was to compete with each other in everything. They competed to see who could jump further and who could climb higher, who could throw a rock further, who had better handwriting, and who could eat more chocolate brownies. All through their childhood, they were always challenging each other. Wherever they were, in that wonderful kingdom or in that magnificent palace, they always found a way to race to see who was better at something.

The palace was surrounded by high palace walls, with four strong towers at the four corners. The two boys, who were named Rubin and Stein, would often run up the tower steps. One time, they had a contest: who could count the number of steps more accurately? But, as often happened, it turned out that they were equally good at this: both boys counted that there were exactly 64 steps in the tower, and they were both right. And so they grew, challenging each other in every possible way, and in time they became handsome young men.

Then, when old King Crucifer felt that managing the kingdom was becoming just too tiring, he decided to retire from the throne and to give the kingdom to one of his sons to rule it in his place. But to which one? He loved both of his sons equally, and each of them would have made a very good ruler. The King simply could not decide. So the two boys agreed they would have a competition. They tried every possible way of competing: they ran, they swam, they fenced; yet neither of them ever managed to beat the other. Next, they decided that since the new king would have to rule the country, they would have a leadership competition. Each boy would set up his own army and lead it, so they could see which of them would make the better and the smarter leader.

Stein, the black-haired boy, wanted to make sure that his brother could not see his battle plans and his strategies. He decided to build himself his own palace, at the other end of the kingdom, and prepare his army there. And that is what he did. When his palace was finished, complete with castle walls and towers, Stein and his soldiers moved in. All day long, he made his soldiers practice, to figure out the very best battle plan. He also decided how to set up his army so that the soldiers could do the best possible job in defending each other. He put the foot soldiers, the pawns, in the front row, because they could defend well by carrying their shields in front of them. Behind them came the higher ranked soldiers and the siege towers. The knights could even jump their horses when needed. Next to the king and his queen stood the wise bishops.

Meanwhile, Rubin was working out his own battle plans. And since Rubin was very much like Stein, his battle plan was also very similar: he set up his army in the same way. His army wore light-colored uniforms. Stein’s army wore dark-colored uniforms.

The battle between the two boys lasted a long time. But since they were brothers, and they loved each other, they commanded their soldiers not to harm the king of the other side. Whenever either king, Rubin or Stein, was in danger, the soldiers had to shout: “Check!” to warn the king.

 

And who won the battles? Sometimes one side, and sometimes the other side. Sometimes, Rubin was able to execute a clever trap and trick his brother. At other times, Stein was able to trick Rubin. Between the battles there was peacetime, and they used this time to rest. During the rest times, Stein would often visit his parents, the old King and Queen in their own palace, and they were always glad to see him.

One cold winter night, Stein was spending time in the old palace, but the visit had lasted so long that it was once again time to start the battle. Now Stein had an idea: let’s not go out into the cold and the snow to fight each other. Instead, let’s build a little battlefield out of wood, and let’s carve out the soldiers for the armies, and we can sit at a table by the fire and continue the battle that way. And so they did. They made a flat board out of wood, which they divided into squares, and in order to tell the squares apart, they painted each square in alternating colors: a light square next to each dark square. Then they carved out the soldiers for each army, and they set up these wooden pieces at each end of the board, in exactly the same order as the real soldiers. At first, the boys flipped a coin to see who would go first, but after a while they decided it was better that the light-colored army should always go first. So Rubin always made the opening move.

This turned out to be a wonderful game. Both of the boys felt that they had to think just as hard to win this game as they had when they were leading a real army. At the end of each game, they always shook hands and thanked each other for the game. And then they would have a long talk about which of them had worked out the better battle plan, and which of them had led his soldiers more wisely. They called the game chess. And they learned so much by playing this game, and they became so much smarter and wiser, that they decided they were no longer playing to see who would rule the kingdom. Instead, they divided the kingdom into equal halves, and each of them did a marvelous job in running his own kingdom. Yet they did not stop playing chess, and at the chess table they never stopped competing with each other. The old palace, where Rubin lived, was soon named Chess Palace, and they were happy to show it to every curious child who came to visit.