Thursday, 26 February 2015

Tough Travels: Chess Masters

‘Tough Travelling’ is a weekly feature: every Thursday (hopefully!) I’ll be rummaging around in my memory to come up with various examples of commonly used fantasy tropes. Full credit goes to Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn for coming up with the idea: be sure to check out his blog!

This week's topic is CHESS MASTERS.

A true master knows where all the pieces are at all times.  Others may think they have taken control but alas, the master knew their last move before they played it.

I had a lot of fun with this week's topic. There were LOADS of examples which sprung immediately to mind, including some I haven't had the time to include (and probably others which I'll kick myself for not including!).


(The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie)

This diabolical wizard has spent centuries manipulating events in his favour, and in the span of the First Law trilogy manages to get every major character beneath his thumb. A viciously ambitious chessmaster, the First of the Magi is like a big bald spider spinning a vast web of intrigue. Speaking of which . . .


(A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin)

The Spider of King’s Landing knows EVERYTHING that goes on, thanks to his ‘little birds’. The latest book revealed that he’s even more ruthless and cunning than previously believed . . .

Quick Ben

(The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson)

Ben Adaephon Delat – or Quick Ben, as he’s most commonly known – ALWAYS has a shaved knuckle (or acorn) in the hole. Quick is a devastatingly powerful mage with possibly the most cunning mind of any character in the entire series. His plans within plans are often so convoluted that he is the only person who understands them. He is a master at humbling the arrogant and powerful, and is so mysterious and conniving that even the lord of Shadow whom he betrayed is no longer interested in pursuing revenge against him. In fact, speak of the devil . . .

Shadowthrone and Cotillion

(The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson/Malazan Empire by Ian C. Esslemont)

Another pairing to whom the word ‘diabolical’ can be freely applied. Formerly known as Kellanved and Dancer – the Malazan Emperor and the commander of his imperial assassins – Shadowthrone and Cotillion are now the lords of the Shadow Realm. These masters of manipulation instigated their own deaths to achieve their shady goals, and now have god-like powers and an army of demons at their disposal. The pair can be found lurking behind a huge number of schemes and events throughout the series.


(The Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts)

A chess master in the literal sense, supposedly unbeaten in the strategic game of shah, Chumaka is the First Advisor of our protagonist’s enemy, Jiro of the Anasati. Chumaka is responsible for decades’ worth of plots designed to undermine rivals and further the success of the Anasati. It’s also worth mentioning that Mara herself actually becomes something of a chess master as this trilogy progresses, as her enemies eventually all find themselves outwitted and outplayed.

Andross Guile

(The Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks)

Andross Guile is another ‘chessmaster’ in the literal sense of the word, in this case of the strategic game of Nine Kings. The withered nemesis of the series’ protagonists, Guile uses a facade of age and frailty to mask his true power and intentions.

Jorg Ancrath

(The Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence)

I couldn’t finish this article without mentioning Jorg. He had everything planned out from the start. EVERYTHING.

That’s it for this week! Join us again next week for the topic of VAMPIRES, and be sure to check out the Tough Travelling tab above for links to my previous posts and fellow travellers!


  1. Ha, Bayaz and Varys seem to be really popular this week, they made it onto my list as well.
    I haven't read any of the other books, but they seem really interesting, especially mr. Quick :)

    1. Yes! Quick Ben is one of my favourite fantasy characters ever. :D

  2. Yay to Jorg! He definitely did think ahead!!
    A lot of very nice looking books on here. I've just bought the first Malazan book and I'm really looking forward to starting it!
    Lynn :D

    1. Ooh that's so exciting! :D Be sure to stick with it past the 250 page mark - it gets tons better. :D

  3. Whoa, nice pick with Andross Guile! You're right, he's a chessmaster both in the figurative and literal sense. I can't believe I forgot about the games of Nine Kings that he made Kip play with him...and they featured so much in the book too!

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    1. I just love the image of him sat in a dark room wearing a pair of sunglasses like a wannabe Blues Brother. :D

  4. Little birds. All over. Lots of little birds.

    Cool, you found a real chessmaster. Unexpected to me.

    1. Yeah, I was going to try and be smart and do a whole list of real ones, but I couldn't think of any others!