Chess is a popular board game, played on a board with competitors taking turns to move their pieces, one at a time. The aim to protect the king with defeat confirmed if there is nowhere for the king to move when the opponent’s pieces threaten. In Vietnam, the game is played on a larger scale. There is still 16 ‘’pieces’’ on each side but in villages and during temple festivals, the game can be played using people to fulfil the roles of pawn, knight, castle, king and queen.
A field is marked out into the appropriate number of squares. Whether you have ever played the game of chess before or not, if you are on a Vietnam private tour and come across villagers playing human chess, stop and watch. As the ‘’pieces’’ are moved, they can take an opponent’s out of the game. It is not quite the same in human chess; a choreographed fight takes place in human chess to decide if the piece actually has to leave.
Human chess is a colourful affair; 16 boys are dressed in one colour, 16 girls another. There needs to be a referee selected before the game can start. He must be someone with a good reputation so as to avoid any problems. The competitors are known as ‘’generals’’ whose decisions result in the humans on the board moving as instructed. The generals tend to be among the wealthier people in the village because they will be expected to feed their team.
Each of the pieces is told how he or she is permitted to move. Each individual will have a Chinese character on their uniform or will hold a sign that identifies their character so the audience can understand what is happening. The players are likely to sit on chairs and where hats if it is a sunny day. The generals look really grand, wearing traditional costumes.
People gather early in the morning in anticipation of the game. If you hear about a game while you are travelling in Vietnam, then be prepared for crowds when you arrive. The start of the game is usually signified by a drum roll. There is quite an elaborate entrance by the players as they take their place on the ‘’board.’’ There are displays of martial arts during the game which draws warm applause from the audience. Most games last about two hours after which the audience is often reluctant to leave, such is the fun involved in the game.
If you did not know about this game before, you may wonder whether it is possible to include one in your Vietnam tour package. You need to ask your travel agent because every effort is made to provide an itinerary to include a client’s interests. Certainly visiting villages and enjoying festivals are part of the Vietnam experience and will leave you will a host of great memories and an album full of photographs to delight your family and friends when you get home.
Read more: Vietnam festivals and events