Kirk and Spock in briefing lounge playing chess

Kirk and Spock play three-dimensional chess

Spock McCoy 3D chess

Spock plays three-dimensional chess against the computer

Three-dimensional chess was a variant of the ancient Earth board game chess.

It was an accustomed pastime of Kirk and Spock aboard the USS Enterprise in the 23rd century and its popularity extends into the 24th century.

Play Edit

Movement of pieces is similar to that of traditional chess. The main difference is that in the course of a move, pieces may move up or down any number of levels.

According to the Star Fleet Technical Manual, the starting positions of King and Queen pieces are on their own respective attack boards with their own set of Rooks and Pawns. Knights, Bishops and the remaining Pawns occupy the first two ranks of each color's fixed boards.



Commander Spock was an exceptional chess player; his game was consistently logical. However, he often had a difficult time predicting or effectively responding to the unexpected moves made by his frequent opponents, Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy. Spock introduced chess to young passenger Charles Evans, who disliked the involved nature of the game. After losing, he destroyed Spock's chess pieces. Spock also played a game of chess against Kelvan expedition leader Rojan. He observed, during their match, that Rojan's game was "off," which suggests that it was not the first time they had played each other. (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Charlie X", "By Any Other Name")

In the stage directions from the final draft script of "Charlie X", the white chess pieces were said to be used by Spock, with the dark pieces scripted to be used by Evans. In the final version of the episode, though, the opposite is true.

Spock also enjoyed playing chess against a rival logical mind, that of the Enterprise computer. In 2266, he detected programming errors in the computer's databanks because of faulty chess moves made by the computer. He later introduced the tampering and unreliability of the computer's records as defense evidence in the court-martial of Captain Kirk. (TOS: "Court Martial")

When the Enterprise was apparently helpless against the alien Balok's threats to destroy them, Spock compared the situation to chess, suggesting that they were checkmated and the game was over. However, a comment from McCoy led Kirk to reject Spock's chess analogy and try playing poker with the alien instead. (TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver")

Darwin children

The Darwin children playing chess

Kirk and his senior officers used a chess-based code phrase as transporter clearance in 2268, when Garth of Izar planned to escape from the Elba II insane asylum. Chief engineer Scott declined to beam Garth, disguised as Kirk, to the Enterprise, when after he challenged Garth with the code phrase "queen to queen's level 3" and Garth could not respond with the correct pass phrase (which Spock reveals as "queen to king's level 1" when he calls for transport back to the Enterprise). (TOS: "Whom Gods Destroy")

A problem based on a type of three-dimensional chess on a spherical board was part of a memory test Spock took in 2286. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

The Darwin children at the Darwin Genetic Research Station played three-dimensional chess by using their telekinetic abilities. (TNG: "Unnatural Selection")

Counselor Deanna Troi managed to beat Lieutenant Commander Data at a game of 3D chess in Ten Forward, prompting Data to honor their bet to make Troi a Samarian sunset in the "traditional style". (TNG: "Conundrum")

Commander William T. Riker defeated both Ferengi Doctor Farek and a Ferengi guard at a presumably-alien variant of 3D chess, the former defeat again in Ten Forward, and the latter while a captive of the Ferengi along with both Deanna and Lwaxana Troi. (TNG: "Ménage à Troi")

Commander Benjamin Sisko, also a fan of the game, kept a three-dimensional chess set in his quarters aboard Deep Space 9. (DS9: "Move Along Home", "The Nagus", "The Maquis, Part I", "Statistical Probabilities")



See also Edit

Background information Edit

Collectibles company Franklin Mint produced two different tridimensional chess sets; one based on the TOS four "attack board" version, and a second based on the TNG six-boarded version.

The call sheet from the episode "The Schizoid Man", dated on 4 November 1988, is listing the three-dimensional chess as one of the required items from the art department in the special instructions section. Here it is named "Okuda chess set".

Apocrypha Edit

The Pocket Books novel entitled "The Klingon Gambit" also made several references to three-dimensional chess.

The novelization of Star Trek makes a quick - and foreshadowing - reference; as the two fight their way through the Narada (largely a fistfight rather than the gun battle seen in the film), Kirk, marveling at Spock's highly effective use of Suus Mahna (thinking to himself, "he even fights logically"), concluded, correctly, that the Vulcan must play a "mean game" of 3-D chess.

3d chess video game scene

Kirk and Spock playing three-dimensional chess in the alternate reality

A game of three-dimensional chess figures in the first appearance of Kirk and Spock in the 2013 video game, when their game play is interrupted by a distress call coming from the Helios station, just after the captain's tactical error is exploited by the Vulcan. After Spock leaves his quarters, Kirk sneaks back into the room and moves the Vulcan's piece surreptitiously. This version is somewhat different in that attack board may be suspended below the main board.

External links Edit

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