“What is this?” The old man asked. “I’ve never seen a piece like it before.”

“It’s called ‘the Prophet,’” his opponent replied. “In this chess variant, there are no bishops. You place your Prophet kingside, and your Spy queenside.”

He hadn’t even noticed the other unfamiliar piece yet. He held one in each hand, then ran his thumbs over their smooth, marble features. The Prophet looked to be a hooded figure with outstretched arms, crowned by an inverted pyramid. The Spy was discernible from his allies by demoniac horns punctuating his otherwise spherical head. “How do you use them?”

“You don’t. They’re automatic.”

A worried look came over his craggled face. “Automatic?”

“That’s right. They’re on your side, but you never have to touch them; they play alongside you. Neither will interrupt your turn as usual. The Prophet knows what move your opponent is going to make next, and will move on its own accordingly. The Spy can pretend to be any other piece, black or white, and both of us will believe its disguise while it’s stationary.”

“So, one piece can read minds, and the other can overwrite memories? What kind of trickery allows this?”

“You allow it by making your first move, and the magic lasts until the game is over. The pieces aren’t evil- they just want to play, like us. I don’t know exactly how they work, but I enjoy having them around. They keep the game feeling new and surprising.”

“But surely this cannot be called chess!” A burst of passion pried his old eyes wide. “Chess is a game of mind versus mind, one against one. I was known as a grandmaster, once. I played against mathematicians, generals, dukes, even machines, and I bested them all. For me, chess has always been a game of wisdom, of skill, of patience, and a measure of all three. But your game is no such thing. It has no standards, no predictability, no tradition. What is your even victory worth? What does a checkmate make you feel?”

“Well,” his eyebrows flattened. “I can’t speak for my pieces. But whether or not I win, I learn, and I always have a good time. Do you still know how to do that?”

The old man grunted. “So you like to learn, do you? Then I’ll give you the best damn chess lesson you’ve ever had. Go ahead and use your magic pieces. I’ll use what I know, and I’ll beat you my way. Just pawns, rooks, knights, and-“ and as the old man looked at his hand, he saw that he was already holding a bishop. “Well, what do you know?”


No matter how hard he tries, the God of Obsolescence cannot seem to rid the world of such ancient games.

Seemingly inanimate things can be full of life, as evinced by certain coins.

Chess isn't the only game that can get inside your head. Modern games like Tetris have their own sinister secrets.