Friday, February 17, 2012

A timeless story of love and chess

LAST month we were treated to a spectacle of the city attempting to land in the Guinness book of world records with the world`s biggest chess tournament at the Cebu City Sports Center.

An interesting part of the event was the introduction where a chess game was played by people in full costume, the Spaniards as white pieces and the natives as black. It was awesome and spectacular and the crowd loved it.

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Also last month we had the Sinulog grand parade and street dancing, which is a sight to behold specially for first timers.

This being Valentine’s week ,we are also celebrating love.

Like coffee, this week`s article is a 3-in-1--love, love, human chess game and grand parade.

And this can only happen in Marostica, Italy.

I wrote about this story years ago: I write about it again but this time with a different twist.

The medieval town of Marostica holds a unique pageantry every even year in the second weekend of September, when a live chess game is played on a giant (20 x 20 meters) chess board at the Piazza Castello (popularly known as Piazza degli Scacchi, meaning Plaza of Chess) in front of the local castle.

This pageantry started in 1923, making it much older than our Sinulog.

About 500 residents of the town dressed in traditional 15th century costume take part in this pageant and re-enact the legend of circa 1454 when two noblemen , Rinaldo D’Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara were in love with Lionora, the elder daughter of the Lord of Marostica.

As was the custom at that time, they challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of Lionora.

The Lord of Marostica, not wanting to make an enemy of either suitor or lose them in a duel, forbade the encounter.

Instead he decreed that the two rivals would play a chess game, knowing that both suitors were avid chess players, and the winner would have the hand of Lionora. The loser of the chess game would also join the family by marrying her younger sister, Oldrada.

He ordered that the game take place on the square in front of the Lower Castle, with armed living persons carrying the ensigns of Whites and Blacks and played in the presence of the Lord, his daughters Lionora and Oldrada and the Lords of Angarano and Vallonara.

With them were noblemen and their ladies, the herald, the master of arms, falconers, pageboys, maidens, standard holders, musicians, farmers and their wives, the Whites and Blacks with their kings and queens, rooks and knights, bishops and pawns and the two suitors, who decided the moves.

There is no record to tell us how Oldrada felt about being the consolation prize but, according to legend, Lionora was in love with one of the two men.

Lionora told a servant that, if the “right” man won the game, she would place a lighted candle in her window so that the people of the town would know that she was happy.

On Sept. 12, townsfolk dressed in black or white representing the kings, queens, bishops and other pieces and real horses, magnificently appareled, represented the knights.

Eventually, Vieri da Vallonara won the game. The town celebrated with music,dancing and other entertainments and that night, a candle burned in Lionora’s window.

This event is repeated today just like the first time, in a framework of sumptuous
costumes, multi-color banners, martial parades, exquisite elegance just like our Sinulog.

It is held every second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of September of “even” years. The orders are still given to the cast today in the local dialect.

It is one of the favorite destination of chess-playing tourists visiting Italy.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 17, 2012.

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