MEANING OF THE GAME
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How Metapontum came into being
Philosopher of peace
The Metapontum game was conceived and developed by Hans Theo Frenkel, a former lecturer of Hindu philosophy from 1969 to 1980 at the State University of Albany New York. In 1977 the idea of Metapontum, which means the bridge beyond (war), was born.
This was during the years of the Cold War between East and West, the confrontation between two antagonistic systems of political philosophy, communism and capitalism. America was embroiled in the Vietnam War.
The explosive topic of the innocent Vietnam victims and the boat people who were slaughterd mercilessly by both sides and the clandestine wars in Central America became the impetus for Frenkel to search for a (philosophical) solution for the phenomenon of war itself.
Wrongly placed pieces
But the real impetus to this new (peace) game came quite providentially at the home of a friend. Frenkel saw a chess game with the pieces wrongly placed, with the black square on the lower right hand side instead of a white square. In this arrangement one is not allowed to play chess officially. It is very easy however to remove the pieces from the board manually and to place them correctly before one commences to play. But according to the rules of the ICF (International Chess Federation) this is not allowed. In practice however, this happens all the time. This casual deceit of the players he likened to the casual deceit of the political players who refuse to correct unjust or wrongly conceived policies. In light of that, Frenkel wanted to play the pieces to their official position by means of legal moves. However, after 15 moves the pieces got stuck. The pawns blocked each other because they may only move straightforward, not to the right or to the left except to beat or kill each other. Thus the pawns in chess faced each other squarely and the game was totally obstructed. The kings and queens, knights, castles and bishops however can easily move to their correct position with their official powers of movement. They circumvent all difficulties just like the real politicians.
Chess against the rules
Strolling in the garden Frenkel contemplated the parallels and analogies of the chess problem and the war policies of the US and USSR in which the pawns are like the young men who must die for the wrong ideas of their leaders. The ordinary people are victimised while their leaders who cause all the misery escape to safety. Then suddenly he saw a hollow tree with a honeycomb and bees. He examined carefully the hexagonal structure. Frenkel became fascinated by the peaceful, harmonious and co-operative manner in which the bees acted. This would be a perfect example and model for people to learn how to act. Are people really less intelligent than bees, he reflected?
By making a game board with 64 hexagons the problem of the stranded pawns on the chessboard was solved. The pawns have the ability to move obliquely and advance to the left or to the right, while evading each other if necessary, in order to reach to other side.
The new game board also created new problems however. Frenkel had to abandon the 2 colour board. A board with hexagons requires a 3rd colour otherwise equally coloured fields will border each other and make playing impossible. He also wanted to maintain as many chess-rules as possible while simultaneously transforming the warlike mentality. He turned the rules upside down and that supplied sufficient critical structure and strictness without aggression or arbitrariness. Thus the 5000 year old chess-paradox ignored by chess players was solved at last.
What has been maintained in Metapontum from chess?:
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