Geass and Chess

I love chess. Ever since I was 7, I played my father every day, and for 4 straight years I played and played until I could beat him soundly (which, afterwards, I started playing at school, and eventually, a brief varsity stint). It was a funny way of learning how to play a game, but believe me, I enjoyed every game and learned valuable lessons from my playing.

destroy britannia

I remember why I fell in love with Code Geass in the first place–Lelouch plays chess, and is damned good at it. The show starts with a particularly memorable scene for me: taking over a chess game on the losing side, Lelouch sees the board, and quickly comes up with a plan to end it. Forgetting that this is an anime, my mind evoked images of Capablanca. And his bold statement on Kings setting an example by moving first before the lesser pieces increased my admiration. Sure, it was very un-chess-like (you don’t maneuver the King offensively until most of the pieces have been cleared away from the board), but revealed to me a keen mind on leadership.

Lelouch is smart, daring, and willing to take risks. That was when I told myself, “this guy is awesome.”

I watched more of the show. I loved the whole of R1 (yes, even the Mao arc), and eagerly waited for more. And then R2 spoiled my fanboy dreams by destroying my suspension of belief. Sunrise didn’t do their homework, and just used my beloved game as a device to show how smart Lelouch is. There was no grandmaster-level game with dazzling combinations, only magically teleporting pieces and illegal moves. The chess was a lie!



The aftermath of that episode left me in despair, until a friend approached me and asked me to teach him chess. “Why?” I asked. He told me he was going on a blind date, and that the girl stipulated a chess game in which the outcome would decide if he was fit to continue dating her. Naturally, I was bewildered at such an idea, but why not? Indulging myself in a few educational games with him might remove the bitter aftertaste that R2 had caused me.

After the crash course in chess, I bade him good luck as he set out to conquer the heart of this anonymous girl with chess pieces in hand. Later that night, I casually asked him how it went.

His answer: “She creamed me, but said that I’m welcome to try again.”

“So there’s hope!” I said. I immediately thought of more lessons to teach, and whatnot. Opening, midgame, and endgame strategies, the works.

“Nah, it’s okay,” he replied. He told me that the girl was a fujoshi who had mad fan-love towards Lelouch, and as some kind of sick fantasy, played chess whilst projecting the other side as Schneizel.

I still facepalm over the whole thing on occasion. Hell, I’d accept the whole “beat me in chess for more dates plz” idea, and would even proxy for my friend if I could (lol?), but the underlying idea is just. So. Wrong. My noble aspirations towards the game have become a joke that which an entire legion of Lelouch/Schneizel fangirls trample upon continuously. From now on, my playing style shall be forced to include fabulous gestures out of flashy fianchettos. Curse you, Sunrise!

Given these terrible experiences, I still wish for an anime that centers around chess, but respects its rules and doesn’t treat it as “lol +1 skillset for genius character”. Even if the protagonists are all males and we’re shown nothing but poker faces and piece-moving, clock-pressing chess action, I’d still watch it. Come on Japan, I know you can do it. We had shogi. We had go. Someday, maybe.

So, here’s a couple of questions for you, dear reader:

  1. Knowing the chess screwup in R2, do you still appreciate the portrayal of the game itself, and how it is used to bolster the audience’s impression on Lelouch’s intellect?
  2. Would an anime centering strongly around chess interest you? Why or why not?
  3. Black, or White?
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24 Responses to Geass and Chess

  1. ghostlightning says:

    I won a tourney (board 4) in grade school, but I stopped playing around college and I can no longer beat anyone who plays more than I do (more than once every 3 years).

    1. The chess master schtick was never more than just a device to make Lelouch look smart. It was never significant to my appreciation of the anime (and I like Geass a lot!).

    2. It would! It would be tough to make exciting, but I’d be interested indeed.

    3. White.

  2. Kairu Ishimaru says:

    Totally diff here. I hate chess. I think its boring + mindfuck + no fun = fail.

  3. 1. Yes. I think what I appreciated most was what they did with chess pieces outside of actual chess – having Lelouch waving them around, and so forth. That worked better for me than the two (?) actual chess matches in the story.

    2. Well, I have no interest in mahjong but I enjoyed Akagi, so it would depend entirely on the other elements of the story. It wouldn’t interest me more because it was about chess.

    3. Grey. White.

  4. omisyth says:

    1. If I let Geass affect my opinons on anything in real life, I’d probably end up as a mad insurgent who constantly gesticulated wildly as he spoke.

    2. Damn right. Hikaru no Go was awesome and I knew literally nothing about go when I started watching. Knowing the rules to the game would make the show even more awesome.

    3. Whichever side wins.

  5. coburn says:

    I like the chess date anecdote a lot.

    When I saw Geass R1 bring the chess out my reaction was to think the show was going to be a pile of silly bollocks. I don’t play but I always meant to write something about chess as “lol +1 skillset for genius character”.

    1. No, I think the chess in Geass is kinda rubbish and cheap even without understanding chess.

    2. Yes! Lot’s of emo faces, cunning plans, and cheating. Ideally it wouldn’t be some highschool setting but chess plus something reliably awesome (moe, ninjas, shinigami’s etc.).

    3. White.

  6. animekritik says:

    I got into playing chess when i was 12. When i was 14 i competed twice, and ended up with a combined record of 4 wins 6 losses, most of the losses to kids around 6-8 years old. I hate losing so I never played again.

    1. The “unpossible” move in chess ruined the use of the game in Geass for me.

    2. Anime centered around chess, yes, but must include megane girl.

    3. black

  7. schneider says:

    As for #3, I myself prefer Black, because I find it easier to gauge someone’s style with it. That, and to break up boring symmetrical openings.

    @ ghostlightning

    Why don’t we play, you and me… kidding.

    @ Kairu

    I understand where you’re coming from, the RTS generation. 😛

    @ IKnight

    #1: Good point. Lelouch fondling chess pieces even inside his mech is a nice touch. And Black vs White is suuuuch a recurring motif in the show.

    @ omisyth

    I lol’ed, #1 and #3.

    @ coburn

    #1: Good for you to have noticed it from the very start. 😦

    #2: Cheating?! I remember the last time someone tried to cheat on me by repositioning pieces while I wasn’t looking. Didn’t work. 😛

    @ animekritik

    Yes, losing to kids is embarrassing, but then again, Grandmasters are becoming younger and younger. But your record wasn’t bad, my first (and only) tourney got me 1-1-1. Would’ve played more if darned parents didn’t pull me out of the team. Bah.

    #2: Oh God, yes please. She must be our main character too.

  8. biankita says:

    1. I have an appreciation for chess, but only enough to know the rules and not enough to know the moves or whatever. Especially since I suck at it. Badly. With the R2 question, it has already been established that Lelouch was a master strategist so I just went alone with that… the chess was not a factor other than the fact that he’s addicted to it, naming his minions Q1 R-whatever – I don’t know chess.

    2. It might. It would depend on what the back story is.

    3. Black

  9. lolikitsune says:


    Oh my god, seriously, fuck it. My older brother is an IM, and one of the strongest players in the US. He has a bunch of IM/GM friends/housemates and they fucking talk about chess ALL THE TIME. UGH.

    1. the chess in Code Geass was laughable from the beginning (“if the king doesn’t lead, the subjects don’t follow” is complete bullshit as I’m sure you know).

    2. For sure. I watched a figure skating anime, why not chess?

    3. Black. My understanding is that it’s easier to improve your rating while playing with the black pieces.

  10. dm says:

    1. I haven’t watched R2. I’m too impulsive and inattentive to be good at chess.

    2. One of the series I have on my queue is Shion no ou, does that count? And Hikaru no go did amazing things for Go among Japanese youth while it was airing.

    3. The color of whichever piece is in the hand that I pick.

    @lolikitsune: Your brother’s friends talk about chess all the time? I know anime fans who talk about anime all the time (I’m in danger of being unable to do much else myself); and computer geeks who talk about computers all the time. It comes with the territory.

  11. Camario says:

    1. Yes, because I never expected the show to take chess particularly seriously and thus it didn’t bother me at all when Schneizel broke the rules to make a point. Everyone seemed to make such a big deal of that and I just shrugged.

    The series attaches some amount of symbolism and even foreshadowing to chess, beyond its being a game smart people are supposed to be good at, but again…that has very little to do with how the game is actually played in reality so I had no expectations in that regard.

    In short, I’m fine with it and can’t help but chuckle a little bit after reading this.

    2. I guess, but to link this to the previous point, that guarantees nothing for chess purists.

    Why? Well, I’ve heard Akagi doesn’t really follow the actual rules of Mahjong too closely either.

    3. Black.

  12. lelangir says:

    Wait isn’t that an anime? I swear to god I’ve seen an anime where some random girl comes in and plays this guy in chess…..I cannot for the love of god remember anything else about it.

  13. lolikitsune says:


    @lolikitsune: Your brother’s friends talk about chess all the time? I know anime fans who talk about anime all the time (I’m in danger of being unable to do much else myself); and computer geeks who talk about computers all the time. It comes with the territory.

    I don’t talk about anime in front of people who aren’t interested, nor do I speak of it frantically. The behavior I cited is more like, I’m with a group of them and suddenly they start reciting a list of moves and then discussing a position oh-so-very-excitedly. And I’m like, FUCK YOU

  14. Owen S says:

    I was in third grade or so and entered a couple of tourneys in school.

    1. The game itself was ornamental, like some in the comments have noted. If the chess ‘game’ somehow ruined it for you, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU JUST LET ABOUT A MINUTE OF COMBINED FOOTAGE SPOIL AN ENTIRE SHOW, and you are OCD epic fail. It’s called suspension of disbelief.

    I’m sure people could find ‘reality faults’ with just about anything, so chess is a rather hilarious reason that way.

    2. No, not really. Chess’ scope has its limits, and there’s no random element for tension’s sake. I’d rather watch an anime of that Japanese chess-like game where you can bring captured pieces back on the board.

    3. White, out of habit.

  15. schneider says:

    @ lolikit

    Damn. I’d be annoyed too, if I were in your shoes.

    @ dm

    Wow, Hikaru no Go actually did that? Amazing…

    @ Camario

    #2: I must be too optimistic to hope for purity. Oh well, as long as there is another show about it.

    @ lelangir

    I pray to God that you do remember it, so that you can tell me! 😛

    @ Owen

    I’ve suspended my disbelief on stranger things, but this one just hit close to home back then. Nevertheless, I forgot about the fiasco after R2 delivered more shocking moments. All is good.

  16. Wells says:

    Played casually, most notably in a mental ward against a chess-obsessed inmate who used it to play theoretically educational mind games with me. It got very GEASS-ish.

    1. I thought it served its thematic purpose well, even if seeing Lelouch play raised unpleasant associations for me (see above.)

    Hey, alternative universe could mean alternate universe chess, aside from the careless teleporting pieces. I mean, in a casino setting, you could imagine a rule like, “You can accidentally put your own king in check and end the game fast,” in order to weed out careless players.

    2. Hell, yes, if they got the right consultants.

    3. Black.

  17. Paorou-sama says:

    Can’t really get into chess. I can get the surface rules – but I can’t get the deeper strategies. I can’t grasp it.

    I guess it’s because I prefer aesthetics over cold, hard logic.

    1. This is code geass you’re talking about – Even in R1, if you notice, they did not show the ACTUAL CHESS GAME GOING ON. (no moves, just screens/pans that they were playing chess – Lelouch/Mao wins after this without showing WHAT THEY ACTUALLY DID IN-GAME.)

    I loved the show because it was lulzy and entertaining – and the character stereotypes. That’s about it.

    2. Make it hot-blooded, and I might get into the game more.


  18. hazy says:

    Nice post. I think chess is pretty cool. I’m really useless at it though. Last time I played was ages ago.

    1. No comment. Haven’t seen R2.

    2. Even though I had zero shougi knowledge, I loved watching Shion no Ou because the story piqued my curiosity. I think when a chess-centered anime comes, I’d consider watching it if it has a nice plot and could interweave the game and the story well.

    3. Black.

  19. ghostlightning says:

    Fine, let’s play. Next time we anibloggers meet you bring a small chess set or something. Then we blog it. We’ll come up with awesome made up moves and shit, and let’s make a great post while we’re at it. Game?

  20. schneider says:

    @ Wells

    Your life is very interesting, I must say!

    @ Paorou

    You were the one who took #3 out of context.

    @ hazy

    The more I hear about it, the more I want to check out Shion no Ou.

    @ ghostlightning

    Sure thing. I think I should bring a big one so I’d be instantly identifiable! <_<

  21. In fairness, the girl was cute. She was batshit insane, but cute nonetheless. I’d still like to continue our chess sesions lol.

    1. Sure, it made the animu more interesting for me.

    2. Why not? I eat these kind of animu(eg. cooking master boy, grander musashi etc) up.

    3. White.

  22. ddddddddd says:

    1 yes i found pleasure in the way Lelouch intelligent’s was boasted but i disagree about the chess being just to show off Lelouch’s smartass self. it played key roles in the show with out the know how of chess he would not know how to commande his army he thought of it as a chess game and people are the peacies {2}

  23. Pingback: 12 Days of Stuff #1: No Game, No Life is terrible and I’m terrible for watching it | Continuing World

  24. Anonymus says:

    The chess in code geass is not played by real life rules its played by war rules still checkmate and pieces moves are the same but chess is played to show someones tactic and strategic mind. I think code geass chess is very good becajse they use special rule ,in a real war you CAN move the king to face the other king or let him open for a victory so wake up.

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