Borges on Chess

Borges Had a Unique Take on the Game of Kings

Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) wrote two sonnets entitles “Chess.” This is the second one:

Faint-hearted king, sly bishop, ruthless queen,
straightforward castle, and deceitful pawn—
over the checkered black and white terrain
they seek out and begin their armed campaign.

They do not know it is the player’s hand
that dominates and guides their destiny.
They do not know an adamantine fate
controls their will and lays the battle plan.

The player too is captive of caprice
(the words are Omar’s) on another ground
where black nights alternate with whiter days.

God moves the player, he in turn the piece.
But what god beyond God begins the round
of dust and time and sleep and agonies?

From Jorge Luis Borges, The Sonnets (London: Penguin, 2010).