May Day Chess Game: On May 1, activists in Toronto held a human chess event in Nathan Phillips Square, using a chess game as the platform for a Brecht-inspired theatre piece.
In the allegorical live chess game dubbed “Operation Chess Magik,” the human pieces (representing the 99%) were arrayed against a set of large cardboard pieces, whose moves were directed by a woman in business attire (representing the 1%), who commanded a minion to make her moves. The game ended in a version of the four-move checkmate. See gamescore and script, below.
- Read “May Day starts with chess, ends with arrests” at Torontoist.com
- Read “Occupy Toronto celebrates May Day” at MetroNews.ca
- Check video and photo essay “The Queen of the 1% vs. The People” at rabble.ca
- Check photos at Reuters and CBC
Operation Chess Magik
The 99% are humans in costume standing as the white pieces on a giant chess board. They include a “Facilitator Pawn” on e2, a “Fairy Queen” on d1, and a “Hippie Bishop” on f1. The black side are large cardboard pieces, whose moves are directed by “the Queen of the 1%,” who commands a “Minion” to play her moves.
FACILITATOR-PAWN OF THE 99%: [Stepping forward one square, e2-e3,] “Good morning, everyone. I’m a facilitator, a volunteer. We’ve challenged the 1% to what you see here. Let’s see if the 99% can win this game.”
QUEEN OF THE 1%: “I’m in control here; I can do no wrong. Now do what I say and go and move that pawn.” [Queen directs Minion to move a-pawn, Minion plays a7-a6, Queen corrects her,] “I’ve actually come out on top, so do what I say until I say, stop.”
MINION OF THE 1%: “Sorry, sir – I mean ma’am – I’m doing the best that I can.” [Minion completes the move with a6-a5.]
1. … a7-a5
QUEEN OF THE 1%: [to Minion] “God, you’re going all the wrong places. Finally, you moved it two spaces.”
FAIRY QUEEN OF THE 99%: [Moving d1-f3,] “The people have chosen me as their queen. Your pawn is working hard; why are you so mean?”
QUEEN OF THE 1%: “Maybe I’m crazy. Or you’re all lazy.” [Turning to minion,] “Don’t just stand and hover, I want to end this mother.” [Minion plays e7-e5.]
2. … e7-e5
HIPPIE BISHOP OF THE 99%: “You’ll end this mother all right – Mother Earth!” [Hippie Bishop of the 99% moves f1-c4.] “The best that we can do is not to invest in your scheme. You want to destroy the planet, own our life, and shatter our dreams.”
QUEEN OF THE 1%: “Chess is a man’s game of wits, one of power and politics. True, I’m a woman, but it’s a sham: I’m only here as the sacrificial lamb. There’s no room for pleasantries and made-up deities.”
MINION OF THE 1%: “I’m hoping for a raise, so I will give you more praise. Never have I seen someone play such a wise game.”
QUEEN OF THE 1%: [flattered] “It’s true, it is a wise game.” [playing Bf8-c5 and speaking to the Hippie Bishop on c4] “All right, Hippie Bishop, if you’re so certain about stepping up to the plate, let’s play, you dirty hippie!”
3. … Bf8-c5 ??
FAIRY QUEEN OF THE 99%: [moving forward four squares to capture the pawn on f7] “I check.”
ALL WHITE PIECES: [human microphone] “I check.”
FAIRY QUEEN OF THE 99%: “And checkmate!”
ALL WHITE PIECES: [human microphone] “And checkmate!”
FAIRY QUEEN OF THE 99%: “It looks like we won the game.”
ALL WHITE PIECES: “It looks like we won the game.”
FAIRY QUEEN OF THE 99%: “We won fairly, …”
ALL WHITE PIECES: “We won fairly, …”
FAIRY QUEEN OF THE 99%: “… bringing justice without shame.”
ALL WHITE PIECES: “… bringing justice without shame.”
QUEEN OF THE 1%: “They can’t do that. I want them thrown out of the game! I’m used to getting my way and everything staying the same!”
The event was organized by Occupy Toronto, part of a global political movement to challenge the economic control exercised by an elite who are only 1% of the population. Occupy protesters in the US and around the world have been holding Tahrir-inspired occupations where they practise direct democracy and facilitate open questioning of global economic systems. “We are the 99%” is their most well-known slogan. Occupy Toronto launched itself on October 15, 2011 with a month-long occupation of St. James Park.
There were few more than media and participants in attendance at the chess event this Tuesday, perhaps partly because the location was kept secret, flash-mob style, until that morning. It was the first of a series of May Day (international workers’ solidarity) manifestations in the city, which included “guerilla gardening” at Queen’s Park, a rally at Nathan Phillips Square, a street march to Alexandria Park, and a “re-occupation” at Simcoe Park – across from the Metro Convention Centre, where mining giant Barrick Gold was to hold their AGM.
[Event “Operation Chess Magik”]
[Site “Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto”]
[White “The Ninety-nine Percent”]
[Black “The One Percent”]
1.e3 a5 2.Qf3 e5 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Qxf7#