Chess in Vietnam

Two men cross-legged on floor, a board with pieces between them. Two older neighbours pass a winter's afternoon rapt in attention
to their game of chess
A game played everywhere throughout the Chinese and Vietnamese diaspora, with an intensity and popularity that surprises westerns, is chess. Both western and Chinese chess are thought to have had a common, now lost, origin. The Chinese call their game Xiangqi, Go to another site. a name used in Vietnam alongside the Vietnamese 'Cờ Tướng'. The Vietnamese is literally akin to 'General's Chess'. Due to the size of China, the game is easily the world's most popular board game. And in Vietnam games are seen everywhere, older people play quietly at home, younger intellects may set up a number of simultaneous games for money - in parks or by the roadside. Instead of shaped pieces the Chinese characters are used. These mean no more to Vietnamese citizens than they do to westerners, and equally have to be learnt by rote. But they allow the costs of playing to be only that of writing on scraps of paper, and chalking a board on the pavement. Huddled groups, like those seen below, in public spaces, inevitably proclaim games underway. While not exclusively so, it is predominantly a male pastime. This and the following page are linked by the last photograph, which takes up the theme of tea - an almost mandatory accompaniment to playing chess. The next page is on Coffee and Tea. Squared piece of paper with two coloured pieces laid out. The 'board' (here a sheet of paper) and pieces for Xiang Qi - the Vietnamese form of the Chinese word. Differences from Western chess include the river, the two courts within which the king must stay, and that the pieces sit on the intersections, not within the squares Two men playing, one setting piece on board. The game at the top of the page proceeds Four men on mat playing and watching a game. His finger indicates the point he is thinking of occupying - a normal part of the game - which may extend to placing a piece in alternative positions Three men sitting on stools around table with game in progress. The ease and simplicity of playing on a mat appeals to the Vietnamese, but tables are not forbidden. Observers are always present; being far from passive, they often intervening and indeed move pieces! Flower border with parked bikes and people beyond. Parked bikes and a few people may... Group of thirty or so men standing and sitting, lake in background. ...on approach, reveal a more extensive gathering Three men and paper 'board' by lake, one on small stool. Space and peace, a perfect location in a busy city for a quiet game. A minimalist stool mitigates the normal hunkering down for one man

And below no space at all.
Tightly packed group looking down - board not visitble. Group watching just visible board. The huddled and intense interest in their games makes the participants unaware of the foreign photographer. Chess pieces on paving stones between feet. Legs and pieces on paving. Above, and to the far right, the minimal of apparatus: pieces from the pocket and a chalked board on the paving. Man amongst others moving a piece. Group around cloth 'board', a finger on a piece; cigarette and tea apparent. Again the player identifies the piece he is thinking of moving Man with glasses looking very closely down at his pieces. Black directs intense study to his pieces, but even as he moves... Glassed man moves piece while other touches a piece. is already touching the piece for his next move Six hunkered men intent on game with no board. When did a pavement get such intense attention? There is no 'king' in the Chinese game. The corresponding piece is called a 'general'. This is said to be because a Chinese Emperor, on hearing that the King had been beaten in a game, executed the player responsible for that victory, and so the name was hastily changed. Sun catching glass of tea and board. And now for tea, which comes in glasses... Two men, one with tea and one with cigarette are playing, watched from further off by two men, woman selling tea looking away. ...also commonly in hand - cigarettes. Just between their hands, the 'tea lady' has her glasses set out; to her left a man draws on his cigarette Game in progress wiith tea beside it, and glass in one of the hands. ...a glass in hand... Same scene as just above but with man in background drawing in on cigarette, and piece being touched. The game proceeds, white moves his 'cannon' or maybe 'chariot' across the board, the latter is like the western castle, there is no equivalent to the cannon which moves like a castle but must jump over a piece to be able to capture another piece - as a cannon ball flies over friend or foe before hitting its target. Returning to the man in the background as he draws deeply, and his cheeks pull in - hold that image till the next page, when he will finally be allowed to exhale.

Trailers... Game of chess with tea seller in attendance. The next Picture Posting page picks-up exactly where this one leaves off - with that man exhaling. Forest path with backlit shrubs. The next page of the Mosaic Section
is headed 'Transcendentalism'.
Or go to the contents Go to the contents of the Mosaic Section. of the Mosaic Section.
Saturday 9th September 2023 Murphy on duty to this site

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