Guitar And Chess: Opening Game

Guitar Chess 1

Read Time 3 Minutes

Now You’re Playing With Strategy

If you somehow couldn’t tell by now Guitar-Muse is a guitar web site and by extension we naturally think the guitar is the greatest thing since sliced bread. You know what else rivals the guitar in terms of greatness? Chess. For this article I’m going to go on a tangent about merging chess strategies with composition and performance for the sheer thrill of seeing just how big of a nerd I can portray myself as. That sounded a lot better in my head, but it’s out in the open now so lets move onward to the game.

Prerequisite Information

Merging chess and guitars into one project can become surprisingly ambitious really fast when you consider just how many variables are present. A chess board for example is comprised of sixty-four squares in an 8 x 8 board. A guitar on the other hand is frequently inconsistent in both the numbers of frets and strings available. Usually the instrument is limited to six or seven strings, but the history of the instrument is littered with people that use from four strings up to ten or so (twelve strings don’t count here).

The challenge here to overcome is designating sixty-four locations on the fretboard to represent the chess board. Fortunately the chess board’s layout is easy to work with since it has eight columns (or files) labeled A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, and eight rows (or ranks) labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. So applying chess board positions dwindles down to simply picking a string and fret and calling it A1 or C6 and so forth.

The Next Challenge

There is a new challenge that presents itself from picking strings and naming them after chess board squares. Which ones do you pick? I’ve found it’s easiest to pick a scale to work with first, and for this occasion I went ahead and picked the G major scale, but you can choose whatever scale you like.

Guitar Chess 1
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This is where decisions have to be made. You have to select sixty-four specific locations on the fret to represent the chessboard. Picking a scale really helps in limiting the available options, but depending on which scale you’ve chosen you can still have too many thus you need to decide which ones need to go.

The first graphic shows a twenty-four fret guitar neck with the G major scale laid out across it. That is way over the sixty-four limit so it’s up to us to decide which ones go and which frets we use. At this point it becomes very important to make sure you’ve selected sixty-four spots and that you stick with it as each one represents not just a location on the chess board but also the locations of the pieces.

Guitar Chess 2
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Pictured here you can see the locations I chose for mine. The next step is assigning chess squares to each string and fret.

Guitar Chess 3
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Here you can see how I’ve assigned the squares to the fretboard. There are more ways to approach this than I think anyone would have enough time in their life to fully calculate, so it’s really difficult to do justice to how versatile you can be with this.

I started A1 down at the open low E string and worked my way up. When I reached the twelfth fret I went over to the next string and continued the sequence at the lowest fret included. Wash, rinse, repeat up through the high E.

Once I got to the twelfth fret on the high E I kept going with the sequence up to the highest fret included. This was where creativity took over. When someone is that high up on a fretboard there’s only one way to go. Down. So I reversed the sequence to descend down towards the low E again.

You can star the A1 square up at the highest fret and work your way down, use different frets, or just slap them at random spots. Or you could put even more thought into this than already demonstrated. Since certain pieces all move differently, some more limited and predictable (like pawns, knights, and bishops) you could base the locations off those more.

Next Time

This far in we’ve set up the fretboard for some action. This is all a bit much to take in and should you join in it is a bit of work setting yourself up as I have, so let all of this sink in, make notes of your own and next time we’ll apply everything discussed and see what happens. Or you can just take the diagram I’ve already set up because that’s obviously going to be faster. Either way next time there will be music.

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Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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