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  • Javier Romano

Round the Board in 99 names

There is a distinctly 'Nasrudinesque' (Helper of Faith) aspect to Quaternity, namely:

1. He laughs at you.

2. You laugh with him.

3. He wakes you up.

4. You cannot grab him.

5. He questions your certitude.

6. He breaks your fixed ideas.

7. Laughs at you if you don't learn.

8. He is old but appears to be young.

9. He is a mirror where you see yourself.

10. He is a great teacher but doesn't seem to be one.

11. Just when you think you have him; he changes appearance.

Quaternity Chess is an ideal tool for learning, if one does not get demoralised and stops believing in the many benefits it contains (Al-Mumin, the Inspirer of Faith) and, above all, it is a game of patience (Al-Sabur, the Patient).

First there is the process of familiarising oneself with the general rules of the game, the positioning of the pieces, attack and defence and other technical details.

Then, as we begin to ‘see’ (Al-Basir, the Seer of All) and understand what is happening in the vastness of the board, (Al-Wasi, the All-Comprehending) possibilities for clear action begin to open up that can lead to 'conquering' another army by giving checkmate. (Al-Wayid, the Finder)

If one gives the first checkmate, the two remaining players will most likely feel threatened by the superiority of pieces, (Al-Qawi, the Possessor of All Strength) and resolve to temporarily 'ally' (not explicitly, as it is against the rules) by simultaneously attacking their ‘common enemy’. (Al-Muntaqim, The Avenger)

This usually, but not always, ends in our own defeat, depending not only on how one manages one's own pieces (which may be many and located in sectors difficult to manage), (Al-Wali, the Governor) but also on the effectiveness of the attack received.

If this action was not well coordinated, or even if one of them turned against the other, this would give one a breathing space and the possibility to continue in the game. (Al-Afu, the Forgiver)

It may happen that, with a majority of pieces and a good management of them, one can create the second checkmate.From then on, the third and last would be easier because of the majority of pieces obtained. If you checkmate the other three players, you gain everything and all. (Al-Warith, the Inheritor of All)

Another possibility is that two or three players concentrate their attacks on a single army from the start. (Ad-Darr, the Creator of the Harmful). There is usually no escape from this situation either, but one should not be discouraged or give up, for 'the wind' can change when one least expects it, and the outcome can be almost miraculously reversed in one's favour. In this case the watchword is to resist at all costs. (As-Salam, the Saviour; Al-Matin, the Forceful One)

The combinations are endless. Anything can happen. (Al-Qadir, the All Powerful)

Experiencing this variety of possibilities is very enriching, (Al-Mughni, the Enricher), especially if we consider that the familiarity with these processes and mechanisms is influencing us, even 'subconsciously'. (Al-Latif, the Subtle One)

This influence cannot be anything but positive, in the sense of opening and creating new neural paths and spaces within, which will eventually end up influencing our perception and behaviour. (Al-Fattah, the Opener)

As a tool for self-observation, it can be very useful, (Al-Basir, the Seer of All), as our reactions are constantly manifesting themselves during the game and we may be surprised to feel fear, anxiety, excitement, combative passion, courage, frustration and other combinations of moods. The most obvious polarity is that experienced by losing or winning, frustration or elation.

I still clearly remember emotions felt in the early years of games: insecurity, fear, grief, even anger. I also have a clear record of those experienced when winning, with the consequent self-affirmation, increment of self-esteem and satisfaction after the game won. (Al-Muizz, the Bestower of Honours)

Then the fears disappeared, the insecurity gave way to a calm waiting, as I realised that 'the wind' could change my situation, even if my army was reduced to a few pieces. I learned to trust these changes, but also to observe the weaknesses of others, as well as their strengths, and to encourage myself to make decisions intuitively, (Al-Hadi, the Guide) even if they had no logical motivation. Many seemingly 'illogical' moves proved useful a few moves later. (Al-Wakil, the Trustee)

There also came, with practice, due recognition of the superior skill of an opponent, one with more experience in the game, and in some cases, a proven track record in traditional chess, which naturally confers quicker reflexes and positional and tactical skills than one lacking such preparation. (Al-Muhsi, the Appraiser)

Also, being attacked, whether by one or several players, triggers in one an innate survival reaction, very often of 'fight or flight', but certainly of a search to position one’s pieces in the best possible way, to suffer fewer losses, or even to sacrifice some pieces to get rid of a good part of the attack. (Al-Hafiz, the Preserver)

I have played or witnessed games in which an army almost decimated and about to be checkmated, recovered in an incredible manner, after an unexpected turn of events. This is clearly because the attack is multi-directional, and attention has to be all over the board constantly. (Al-Wasi, the All-Comprehending)

This flexibility to change direction at any given time is very useful in Quaternity, and if one does not have it, one eventually acquires it, assuming one gets through the 'testing' period, which is often difficult.

Eventually emotions subside and give way to a calmness that allows one to observe one's own and others' moves on the board more clearly.

This implies no longer making moves motivated by an emotional reaction, since in the case of Quaternity, unlike traditional chess, getting locked in a confrontation limited to one opponent, (Al-Qabid, the Constrictor) only means that the other two will end up benefiting from the situation.

This is why it is not advisable to go on a rampage against a single player, nor to respond in kind to a rampage against one's own army.

Whoever did so would soon realise the futility of such an impulse.

Exceptionally it may happen that this succeeds, for example, in the case of a clear-cut confrontation between two players on one side (e.g., White and Red) and two on the other (Black and Green). (Al-Muqsit, the Equitable One)

In this situation there will be little or no interference in each other’s games as each player will be too engaged in fighting his own battle to have to worry about what is happening to his neighbours. (although it’s wise to keep one eye on what they are doing)

The result will usually be a head-to-head between the respective victors of each group.

Beyond a player's learning process, his personal path of growth, there is one aspect of this game that is remarkable and deserves to be mentioned.

It is the fact that it allows, in turn, everyone and anyone to win, (Al-Adl, the Just) and that being skilled and experienced, what is called a good player, is not always a guarantee of winning.

It depends.

And it depends on several factors, which would be long to enumerate, but which one can, little by little, become aware of in the course of the games. Sometimes it's this, sometimes it's that.

In this alternation of winning and losing, I see a familiar analogy with situations of life itself, which are often not easy to justify or explain. Although often disconcerting, one of the benefits this brings is that it helps to level out the polarities so that we can place ourselves beyond them, in that inner zone that Rumi refers to when he says:

“Beyond any idea of good or evil, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

Meanwhile, the desire to win or the desire to avoid defeat impels us to try to improve our skill in the game, which is a good in itself, (An-Nafi, the Creator of Good) just as we strive, indirectly, to develop and polish, out of necessity, our inner faculties, a function which this game, I believe, provokes and stimulates. (Ar-Raqib, the Watchful One)

Thus, an aspect of one's conditioning wears away that gradually brings us closer to the harmony of the game for the sake of the game itself, beyond winning and losing.

Paradoxically, this detachment from the final outcome positions us in a freer state of mind to perceive game situations 'hiding in plain sight', which can be considered 'successful' both for the quality of the strategic move and for the beauty and elegance of the situations created on the board. (Al-Musawwir, the Shaper of Beauty)

“The simplicity of the beautiful move, and how it hid in plain view until the time was right.” 1

But also, the game takes us from hope to frustration, from collaboration to competition, and again from frustration to satisfaction and renewed intention. This process seems to be inscribed in the mechanism of Quaternity chess, and can help us to understand larger truths, while enjoying the game with friends.

Truths clearly expressed by Rumi in the following verses:

“(Showing that) the annulment and destruction of (human) resolutions (is) in order to let man know that He (God) is the Lord and the Almighty; and His occasional non-annulment of his (man’s) resolution and His carrying it into effect (is) in order that hope may urge him to form a resolution, so that He again may destroy it, to the end that warning may follow on warning.”

“In the course of events your resolutions and purposes now and then come right (are fulfilled),

In order that, through hope of that (fulfilment), your heart may form an intention, and that He may once more destroy your intention. For if He would keep you wholly unsuccessful, your heart would despair: how would it sow (the seed of) expectation? And unless it sowed (the seed of) expectation, how from its barrenness would its subjection (to the Divine will) become apparent to it?” 2

One of the conclusions that can be inferred from this text is that winning and losing are of a secondary nature, what really matters is to aspire to develop -and to place oneself in- that unique state of consciousness that exists over these aspects of duality. (Al-Ahad, the One)

“When did Omar argue that the One was two?” 3

“One by one is one, no more, no less, error begins with duality, Unity knows no error.” 4

Also, in the alternation of these two principles -defeating and being defeated- we can experience the manifestation of the Divine attributes of Ar-Rafi, the Exalter, or Al-Aziz, the Victorious, and their complementary opposites Al-Khafid, the Abaser, or Al-Mudhill, the Humiliator.

When a checkmate is given, Al-Mumit, the Taker of Life, and Al-Muhyi, the Giver of Life, appear at the same time. In the case of Quaternity, the pieces of the army that is checkmated become part of (increase the life of) the army that conquered it.

The following concept, taken from "Operation: Human Freedom", denotes a current situation where it can be seen that the game of Chess reflects the prevailing characteristics of an era and society, as well as the need for change and evolution:

“The main way of the control system is to keep humanity in competitive conflict (‘Chess is war’). The path of Human Freedom is in cooperation and cohesion (‘Quaternity is Life’). These are the polarities at play”. 5

It is also worth recalling the following concept:

“One of the most important factors in Quaternity is the human element”. 6

J. Romano

1. 2. 2021

1 "Introduction to "International Rules of Quaternity". A.Shah

2 "Mathnavi" Book 3. J. Rumi. p. 383-4

3 "The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam". O.A.Shah & R. Graves. p.76

4 "The Walled Garden of Truth". H. Sanai. p.28

5 "Operation: Human Freedom". K. S. Perl. p. 94

(In brackets my addition, taken from a text by A. Shah on Qchess).

6 "Introduction to "International Rules of Quaternity". A.Shah.

7 Selection of Divine Attributes taken from "The Most Beautiful Names of God". Sheikh Tosun Bayrak


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