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  • Writer's pictureS.D. Evans

Cradling curved crooks

In the middle, mounted for display, was a magnificent chequerboard made of ebony and ivory, bound by a gilt border; black and white squares backed onto each other on the board, and each square was the size of a lady's span. The pieces were precious, each might be a prize: wondrously worked in wedges of antler or walrus tusk, one set stained dark, the other whitened to stand out. They were carved with spirals, cups and crescents, and inlaid with silver so fine each might have spelled a secret, if anyone could read such runic writing. There were elephants carrying the towers of castles, and bishops in their mitres, cradling curved crooks. A knight, the king and his queen, played in full sight, though not all the moves were seen that were made in the dead of night.


Lancelot and Guinevere gaming in Sir Gawain and the Green Maiden

Image: The Lewis Chessmen, 12th century, found at Uig Bay on the Isle of Lewis in 1831, exhibited in the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland.

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