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The other night I did something that was perhaps foolish. While chatting with my friend Robert Horvat over Google Hangouts, I challenged him to a game of chess. I know Robert loves chess, and has written some great articles about it on his history blog (including this one), and also on mine, specifically, Humphrey Bogart’s relationship with the game. I haven’t played chess in a while, but I do like it, and it’s been on my mind since I reblogged Robert’s great interview with Nancy Marie Brown, who recently wrote a history of an iconic medieval chess set. Why not challenge him to a game? Furthermore, why not do it in full public view–on our blogs and social media–so that you all can see the game as it progresses, which will likely take a couple of weeks?

The fact that Robert lives in Australia, and I live in Oregon, is no impediment. Even before our current era of social media and instant communication, people across the world from each other played chess, for example, by mail. Humphrey Bogart is known to have done so. In fact, he does it on screen in his famous film Casablanca. In one scene Bogart is seen playing with a chessboard, which is only odd if you notice that he’s alone–there’s no opponent. Rumor has it that the board in this scene was arranged to represent the game he happened to be playing by mail at the time (the summer of 1942). I read that the game was never finished, as the board was disturbed during the making of the film.

Humphrey Bogart, an accomplished chess player, plays by mail on-screen in Casablanca (1943).

Fortunately, Robert and I don’t have that problem. While I do have a physical chessboard in my house that I intend to use for this game–it’s pictured at the top of this article (and more on it in a moment)–we’ve decided that we will “officially” register our moves via Google Hangouts, and using the traditional chess terminology, i.e., “knight to F-3” and such. Thus if a board gets knocked over we can easily recreate it. Also, for sake of clarity, I will be putting up graphics (courtesy of wherein all of you can follow the game. Every so often Robert and I will post an update on the game via our blogs and also Twitter. That way all of you can follow along.

My chess set is not exactly a rare collector’s item, but it’s pretty cool. It’s a King Arthur themed set with highly detailed pieces. It was given to me as a Christmas gift several years ago. I’m not sure who made it, as there are various Arthurian chessboards out there, but I’ve enjoyed it for years. I believe the figures are hand-painted. Instead of white and black, the set comes in red and blue. Robert and I flipped a coin to see who was who, and I won the toss and chose white, which I will represent as red on this board. Robert, I know, has a wonderful replica of the medieval Lewis Chessmen. I look forward to his pictures!

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So join us for the Great Trans-Pacific history bloggers’ chess challenge! The battle begins in this very post, as I hereby make my first move: queen’s side rook pawn to A-4. Here is what the board looks like at my house:

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…And the diagram:

Your move, Robert!

All the photos in this article were taken by me and are copyright (C) 2016, all rights reserved. Chess diagram courtesy of I am not the uploader of the YouTube clip.