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  • Javier Romano

The three kings and the King: epiphany on the board

“A symbol, worthy of the name is that in which the

Archetype ‘s radiation predominates over its projection”

Symbol & Archetype. Martin Lings

Quaternity has given me many exquisite moments. But what I'm about to tell you has been one of the finest and most eloquent ones, somehow confirming something I wrote a few months ago, even if then it was just an intuition, now more or less confirmed.

The game in question was most atypical, not only because the application failed twice, but also because of the unusual final position of the pieces that seemed to reflect a symbolic configuration.

“However, I would not be surprised if what happens on the Quaternity board was 'only' a reflection of some real event ‘up there’ provoking, symbolically, a whole range of effects, ‘down here’”. 1

As can be seen (Fig. 1) moments before the outcome, there is already a clear situation of 'attack' by three armies to the green one which, having lost many pieces, is 'cornered' and about to receive a checkmate. (Persian: shâh = king, Arabic: mât = is dead)

Unlike white (me) and red (Anael), the black army (Jorge) is still in the positioning phase towards green (Inma). Red and white have both already given check to green and are competing for the final checkmate.

There was a curious failure of the application, which occurred earlier than what can be seen in the image: the sudden appearance of a second green queen. (in J2)

This struck me because it had never happened before, even if it was an application error, it would seem totally unusual. The first idea that came to mind was that Inma was the only woman playing and also the least experienced of the four, and yet it looked like the three of us had agreed to give a simultaneous 'attack' on her army.

For this reason, perhaps, she was getting extra help? I wondered, remembering what I liked to call 'the wind of Divinity' or even 'the twist of fate'.

That ‘error’ didn't stop us from playing, and I decided to take a screenshot so I could report it to the programmers later on.

Curiously, when I took the 'picture', the cursor of my mouse (which has a circle instead of an arrow), was portrayed as a blue halo over the white pawn, which was about to get promoted.

There was a dispute between the white and the red armies, to see which of the two would give the checkmate. The outcome is triggered when the white pawn, promoting to queen on the L1 square, gives check to the green king. This was a miscalculation (by white) that would benefit the red army.

The red queen, whose turn comes after white’s, finishes the checkmate in J3. (fig.2)

The next move would correspond to the black army. But another 'error' of the application occurs, and its time is reduced to zero, preventing us from continuing the game.

This is, again, very strange to me, my ‘antennae’ tell me that 'something special has happened' and I think I have a clue, that something has manifested itself in front of our eyes, it is ‘hiding in plain sight’, paraphrasing the creator of this game.

I thought of the Epiphany... (from the Greek: επιφάνεια, 'manifestation', but also 'apparition', 'Divine presence').

Looking at the chat, I see that Carlos, who was watching the game had, like me, associated the 'magical' appearance of the second green queen with the Three Kings, as a gift 'fallen from heaven’ to Inma, the green army, who was in trouble and whose end seemed to be inexorably approaching.

Sandra, who was also watching, had jokingly commented that 'the queen has a life of her own!’

It is somehow obvious that previously the green queen and king had been helped and protected, perhaps even inspired by a 'green apparition', which I later associate with the 'Holy Spirit', or Khidr, 'the Green'. (and perhaps it’s the same hidden principle).

Ibn Arabi, in 'The Wisdom of the Prophets', identifies the Spirit with the archangel Gabriel:

When the 'faithful Spirit' (ar-ruh al-amin), that is, Gabriel, appeared to Mary 'in the form of a harmonious man'”. 2

“...then we sent unto her Our Spirit, which appeared unto her, and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man”. 3

“He said, 'I am only the messenger of your Lord, charged to grace you with a pure son”. 4

I took another screenshot, and what I saw there, represented on the board is, notoriously, the incipient nativity of Jesus, represented by the white pawn wrapped in a halo of blue light (compare figs. 1 and 3) who is approaching the corner of the 'green' territory, the site of the manger, where the child would lie shortly after birth. (square L1).

I haven't yet investigated the possible relationship of the chess notation system with the Abjad system, the symbolic correspondence that may exist between the meaning of the pieces in relation to their placement on the squares of the board -its letters and numbers- as well as their interaction with other pieces. This would amount to a long study in itself. But it is worth mentioning that, in a pure phonetic sense, the square where the promotion of the white pawn or 'birth' takes place, is the square L1, which denotes ‘He, the One’. (the L letter, ‘El’, in Spanish has the same sound of the pronoun ‘He’) (in Arabic = Hu, Ahad)

The transformation of the white pawn (colour associated with purity) into a queen would then represent the very moment of the birth of the baby Jesus. But shouldn't the pawn then be transformed into a king, ‘King Jesus’? why a queen?

The green king was already representing the father, Joseph, and the green queen, Mary.

Then? Let us remember that, in the original game of chess, before the queen was introduced, there was another piece, called the vizier, which was the king's closest advisor, and in some way his deputy, or ‘caliph’, second in power. The queen took the place of the vizier when the game of chess was introduced in Europe.

“Among the many mysteries of chess history, one of the most intriguing is how and why the vizier of the Middle East was replaced by the queen when the game came to Western Europe in the late 11th century”. 5

“In Oriental chess, the 'queen' is not a queen, but an 'advisor' or 'minister' of the king (in Arabic mudabbi or wezir)”. 6

Thus, when promoting, the pawn would become a 'vizier', or deputy to the king, the term 'deputy' or 'vice-regent' being a term used in some sacred scriptures to refer to the Prophets, God's vice-regents on earth, beginning with Adam himself.

It was after these random reasonings that I noticed that the name of our friend Inma, in charge of the green army, is an abbreviation of 'Immaculada', as the Virgin Mary was known and is remembered and from there it is referred to the 'immaculate conception of Jesus'.

Inma’s surname, ‘Puente’(Bridge) confirms Mary's function as a 'bridge' or vehicle for the coming of Jesus. (in some apocryphal scriptures Mary is mentioned as a ‘Gate’)

And the three red queens? They would be none other than the three wise men, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar, who come from the other end of the earth, the East, (the red army, diagonally, is the furthest away from the green one) to witness and testify to the birth of Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary), as he is known among the Arabs. 7

In its most universal meaning, the figurative combat of the game of chess represents the combat of the devas with the asuras, the 'gods' with the 'titans', or the 'angels' with the 'demons', all other meanings of the game being derived from it”. 8

These 'other derived meanings' to which Burckhardt alludes can be nothing other than, apart from the implications concerning the confrontation between the light and the dark, that which happens after one or the other has prevailed in the contest. In this case, it would be the coming into the world of an inspired Prophet, the inclusion of an element of supreme luminosity that would rectify that which had been twisted and restore sovereign law and Divine justice to the realm of humanity.

Making sure that there would be no doubt that the event had been completely consummated, and there was nothing more to add or subtract, the application stopped at the very moment when all this happened on the board.

As if all these coincidences were not enough proof, their context could not be less significant. This happened on a Thursday night, a special night for the Sufis, on an equally special day, January 7th, a few hours after the day of commemoration of the Christian Epiphany, and in the territory of the green pieces, a colour that is also strongly associated with the Sufi tradition.

In the book "Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men" by Brent Landau, based on an apocryphal manuscript from the 4th century AD, it is said that the star’s radiance that led the 'Magi' to Jerusalem was 'many times greater than the sun' and that 'each of them saw the star-child in a different form', i.e., the child and the star were one (Fig.3)

“If the meaning of the different pieces of the game is transposed into the spiritual order, the king will be the heart or spirit and the other figures will be like the various faculties of the soul”. 9

If we can admit that the game of traditional chess has a symbolic aspect and that each piece represents a specific function in a pre-established harmonic context, we should not be surprised that the interaction of these pieces on the board -which in the case of Quaternity multiply their possibilities in a geometric progression- can produce an almost infinite range of symbolic combinations. (including -why not- the eventual 'failure' of the application)

If the laws of the cosmos are reproduced on the board and re-enacted during a game, it is not surprising that certain events would be reflected there in a symbolic way as well. It would only take an attentive perception to be able to identify them as such.

“Alfonso ‘the Wise’ (13th. c.) also speaks of a 'great game of chess' played on a board measuring 12 x 12 squares, the pieces of which represent mythological animals, attributing it to the sages of India”. 10

The birth or awakening of a new energy or 'faculty', as expressed by Wes Jamroz, as well as any other internal process of a certain spiritual relevance, can be 'portrayed' in a simple game of Quaternity, just as a landscape or any subject is fixed, by a photographic process, to a sheet of paper, hence becoming more of a symbol - and also a reminder - of the event that has taken place as well as the time when it happened.

Adoration of the Magi. Gentile da Fabriano. 1423

"From the point of view of the game observer, there are no winners or losers. There is only a constructive process leading to the formation of a new faculty. It is in this way that those who are watching the game can become familiar with the various stages of activation of the inner structure of the human mind". 11

Beyond a 'fight between the forces of good and evil', the arrival of the three armies to the green territory would reflect the completion of a summon and a universal celebration. Each one -each wise king- presenting himself with his particular offering to the Messiah: gold, incense and myrrh, symbolizing these three gifts, majesty, sacredness and perpetuation in the face of death.

It may be objected that I am trying to see meaningful things where there are none. But a sort of intuitive impulse was telling me that there was something there to identify, decipher and contemplate. It wasn't a simple coincidence, and it doesn't have to fall into the category of ‘miracles’.

It is, perhaps, simply what P. Beneito refers to when he quotes Ibn Arabi:

"Ibn Arabi says: "There is nothing else in manifestation, there is nothing else but God manifesting himself, making himself present in a theophanic form". What constitutes a veil here is that we do not have a symbolic awareness that allows us to recognise the theophany. The point is to realise that what you are contemplating is the theophany. Symbolic awareness allows us to recognise it”.

It's as simple as that. 👼🏼

J. Romano


1: “Understanding the Game”, J. R.

2: “The Wisdom of the Prophets”, Ibn Arabi (p.86)

3: “Quran”, XIX, 17

4: “Quran”, XIX, 19

5: “A History of Chess: from Chaturanga to the present day”, Yuri Averbakh (p. 58)

6: “Symbols”, The symbolism of Chess, Titus Burckhardt (p.14)

7: “Among the Dervishes”, The followers of Jesus, Michael Burke (p.105)

9: “Symbols”, The symbolism of Chess, Titus Burckhardt (p.23)

8: “Symbols”, The symbolism of Chess, Titus Burckhardt (p.15)

10: “Symbols”, The symbolism of Chess, Titus Burckhardt (p.18)

11: “He who tastes not, knows not”, Wes Jamroz


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