Chess in Code Geass
Chess seems to play an important role in Britannian nobility as a way of developing and demonstrating tactical skill. Chess was rarely shown in the series, only appearing in order to show Lelouch's considerable intellect or, later, to show that Schneizel's strategic prowess was equal to that of Lelouch's. Chess is also used as a form of gambling, where people bet who will win the chess match, an area Lelouch is a master of and has an infamous reputation in. Depending on the situation Lelouch would alternate between offering his services as an aide for other chess players to taking part in actual games himself. Lelouch himself is a masterful player, having previously lost only to Mao, whose Geass allowed him to read and forestalled Lelouch's moves, and Schneizel, who possess considerable talent at strategy and subtle manipulation. Lelouch preferred an aggressive style, counting on surprise and complete shock on the part of his enemies, usually by aggressive use of his king, a move that usually is a very poor choice in the actual game. This often led him to quote "If the king does not lead, how can he expect his subordinates to follow," effectively demonstrating his own feelings toward command. This was often used as a motif and comedic foil referencing the king's ability for limited movement, whilst allowing a comment on Lelouch's poor physical ability. Lelouch was also known to cut class during school days in order to play chess to supplement his income and as an attempt to fight his considerable boredom as he sought a "more challenging opponent."
Chess is also an important symbol throughout Code Geass. Lelouch thinks of all his actions as Zero, both on and off the battlefield, as moves on a Chessboard. His helmet is similar in appearance to the Black King piece shown in Code Geass chessboards, which is also why his terrorist organization is called the Black Knights. Alternately, the Britannian military uses a white color scheme, and Lelouch's rival Suzaku Kururugi pilots the Knightmare Frame, Lancelot, named after a famous Arthurian Knight. The knight is a highly valuable piece in chess, and since Suzaku fights on the Britannian side, it refers to how Lelouch sees his friend as his greatest foe. Furthermore, Lelouch as Zero would sometimes use certain terms that allude to chess pieces when addressing his subordinates. For example, during the Skirmish in Shinjuku Ghetto, Lelouch uses the terms Q1 and P7 (meaning queen and pawn) to refer to Kallen and Tamaki respectively.
For more information including rules and history, see the Wikipedia article of the actual game of Chess
List of Known Chess Matches in the Code Geass Anime
- Lelouch's employer (Black) vs Unknown Nobleman (White). Result: Inconclusive (Replaced by Lelouch). Appearance: Episode 1 Season 1
- Lelouch (Black) vs Unnamed Nobleman (White). Replaced and Continued. Result: Victory for Lelouch. Appearance: Episode 1 Season 1
- Lelouch (Black) vs Mao (White). Result: Victory for Mao. Appearance: Episode 14 Season 1
- Lelouch (Black) vs Mao (White). Result: Inconclusive (Game Incomplete). Appearance: Episode 16 Season 1
- Lelouch (White) vs "The Black King" (Black). Result: Victory for Lelouch. Appearance: Episode 1 Season 2
- Lelouch (Black) vs Schneizel (White). Result: Inconclusive (Game Incomplete), interrupted by Nina Einstein. Appearance: Episode 9 Season 2
- Julius (Black) vs Shin (White). Result: Inconclusive (Charles' Geass goes Unstable). Appearance: Episode 3 Akito the Exiled
List of Known Chess Players
Holy Britannian Empire
- Lelouch Lamperouge/Lelouch vi Britannia
- Clovis la Britannia
- Schneizel el Britannia
- Lelouch's employer
- Unnamed Noble
- The Black King
- Julius Kingsley
United Federation of Nations
- Lelouch Lamprouge/Lelouch vi Britannia (As Zero)
- In Season 1 episode 1, Lelouch's very first move was to move his king. Note that Lelouch tagged in during a late midgame, which would be a reasonable time to start mobilizing kings.
- In the actual board position however, it's best to move the black king because it is in a way of a winning tactic (a battery); After 1. ...Kg6, now that the king is out of the way (no longer blocking the H file) while also kept safe (no white piece can immediately threaten the black king), the tactic is unstoppable as the white king is trapped by the black queen, and no reinforcement can come to the aid of the white king as the F file is blockaded, thus no matter what white does here, 2. ...Rh8 followed by 3. ...Qh1#, is checkmate; the queen is right next to the king, so white cannot block the threat, the queen is reinforced by the h8 rook, so the king cannot eliminate the threat, no other piece could either due to the F file blockade, and all of the king's escape squares are covered by the queen (h2 and g2 directly, f1 through x-ray); white loses.
- In the episode, it is implied that the black king was part of the offensive that won the game, so Lelouch likely missed the winning tactic mentioned above, it also took about 9 minutes to finish the game, and it is unlikely all 9 minutes were spent on merely three moves.
- Kings being part of an attack is entirely possible, even likely, in real chess, as a king can take away up to 3 escape squares of the other king when they are one square apart orthogonally. In fact this pattern is so important in chess it has a name: Opposition, and is an important part of chess endgame theory. A king can also protect his nearby pieces from the enemy king, as capturing a protected piece with the king is an illegal move. Many chess endgames requires the king to do one of the above, sometimes even both; queen and king vs king, rook and king vs king, 2 bishops vs king to name a few, these endgames all requires the king to be part of the attack, this ability to lead and protect his own subjects is both truthful to the actual game and thematically coherent with Lelouch's quote, and forgetting that the king will eventually become an active piece is in fact a mistake beginners will often make.
- Lelouch's quote is frequently misrepresented as literally "moving your king as the first play of the game", which is not possible in chess, as the king is surrounded by his own pieces (a queen, a bishop, and three pawns), thus all of the king's possible movement is blocked.
- Another interpretation would be "moving the king as soon as possible", i.e. moving the king on move 2. This opening (1.e4 2.Ke2) and others like it is known as the 'bongcloud' and, while terrible, is one of the most cherished joke openings in chess communities due to its humorousness. In fact when discussions of the bongcloud occur odds are someone will point out Lelouch's memorable quote "If the king does not lead, how can he expect his subordinates to follow", typically as a tongue in cheek "justification" for the terrible move. (The opening is named after the fact that the player "must be high" to play this terribly)
- In Season 2 episode 9, Schneizel intentionally put his king under check. This is actually illegal in chess and making such a move would result in his disqualification, or at least forced to make a legal move instead. It is a common misconception that, barring draws, chess ends with the king being captured. In reality both kings will always stay on the chessboard to the bitter end, and the game instead ends with the king being threatened whilst having no way to evade, block, or eliminate the threat.