Will Once
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Once upon a chess game
There is nothing quite like it in the whole of chess literature.
"Once upon a chess game" is a collection of 40 chess puzzles and 40 associated stories.
You can buy it from Amazon for Kindle or any device that can read Kindle files.
Here is the UK version:
Here is the US version:
When you buy the book, you will find that each game has a link to the www.chessgames.com page with the full game to play through and a discussion of the puzzle position. What if you are reading it on a device that is not connected to the internet? Then you can follow the links below to find each game.
Game 1 - The Librarian
Game 2 - Do You Have This in Blue?

Game 3 - The Macarena

Game 4 - The Vampyre Hunt

Game 5 - Valentine’s Day 2012

Game 6 - The Casque of Amontillado

Game 7 - Verruca Socks

Game 8 - Brownie Points

Game 9 - I Have Been Expecting You

Game 10 - Good Stuff

Game 11 - Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

Game 12 - Commitment

Game 13 - Another Brick in the Wall

Game 14 - Rooks Can’t Dance
Game 15 - A Cautionary Tale

Game 16 - Lurve
Game 17 - The Art Gallery
Game 18 - The Big Red Button
Game 19 - The Hustler

Game 20 - Die Agonally

Game 21 - Spandex Permits

Game 22 - The Ballad of Bacon

Game 23 - Contours

Game 24 - Zombie Pawns

Game 25 - Adventure

Game 26 - D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

Game 27 - The Wall

Game 28 - And Why Not?

Game 29 - Predators

Game 30 - Knight School
Game 31 - The Scent of a Sack
Game 32 - Man of Steel
Game 33 - Judo in the Hay

Game 34 - The Vampyre Hunt’s Shameless Sequel

Game 35 - It Might Just Work

Game 36 - Rome

Game 37 - Rome Part 2

Game 38 - Praise Be to the Trapmakers

Game 39 - Squint
Game 40 - A Dream of Simpler Days

The origins of "Once"
One of my hobbies is to play chess. It is a game that I have played since I was a child and has fascinated me ever since.
I am not a great player. I suppose you would say a strong club player. I haven't really given it the time and study that I would need to get better. There are too many other things in life, such as work, my family and my writing. It's a game that intrigues me because it says a great deal about how we think. Some of the tactics can also be surprisingly beautiful.
A few years ago I started to visit a website called www.chessgames.com. If you like chess, I can thoroughly recommend it. There are hundreds of thousands of historic and up to date games to play through and a thriving community of chess enthusiasts chatting away.
One of the main features of the website is a daily puzzle. You are given a chess position and challenged to work out the best move to play in that position. Usually (but not always) the position is highly tactical and there is a forcing sequence which wins material or forces checkmate. Just sometimes the position looks hopeless and your challenge is to find a cunning way to draw.
After you have worked out your answer to the daily puzzle, you visit a discussion forum. Here you can post your solution, ask others about it, talk about the problem, discuss side-lines and just generally enjoy the company of like-minded people. There are no prizes for getting it right other than personal learning and a warm feeling of self-satisfaction.
I started to post on this website under the username of Once. I chose that username because for a while I wrote a column under the tagline "Once in your lifetime" in Chess - a chess magazine published in the UK. The idea of the a column was that all chess players should try to play a stunning combination at least once in their lifetime. That is the goal that keeps us coming back to this game.
After a few months on chessgames.com, a crazy idea occurred to me. Most people used the website to post their solutions to the problem. But if it was a relatively simple problem, that meant dozens of posts all saying more or less the same thing. Why not use the posts to be a little more creative? Why not write stories connected to the puzzle? After all, chess pieces are modelled on people. Why not turn them back into people and imagine them acting out little dramas and thinking for themselves? Or why not use the story as a way of exploring feelings and memories?
Could a chess position be the spark for a piece of creative writing?
The idea that appealed to me was that, if this worked, it would be ephemeral art. The story would have no existence other than the website, like a Banksy graffiti. It was throw-away writing - quick and disposable for the digital age.
The $64,000 question was whether I would get away with it. What would my fellow kibitzers make of this unusual approach? As far as I could tell, no-one had done this sort of thing before. Would I be ridiculed and told, ever so politely, to shut up?
The idea bubbled around in my head for quite a while before I summoned up the courage to give it a go. I came across one particularly difficult puzzle that I could not solve, so I vented all my feelings of frustration and disappointment into a post about loss and disappointment. Then with nervous fingers I clicked the mouse on the button marked "send".
The reaction took me by surprise. As I expected, there were some who didn't like it. I attracted a few critics, a couple of imitators and the odd stalker. But the overall reaction was very positive. Many people liked the stories. They encouraged me to write more and to publish them somewhere so that they could read more of them.
So now I have written a book with 40 of my more creative stories.
You can order it from Amazon here: