I have played lots of chess variants over the years but last weekend I played one which was brand new to me.
'5asidechess', played on 5x6 board, is a simplified version of classical chess. However, playing the game is secondary to the main mission of the project.
''We are a Social Enterprise determined to reconnect people in a disconnected world. Loneliness and Social Isolation, which often lead to poor Mental Health, have never been more prevalent here in the UK. To combat this, our Chess Sets are used as icebreakers to get people back into the 'Art of Conversation.' You can contact us today and buy a set. However, you must agree to our pledge beforehand, which states that the boards are only available if you promise to use them to connect with other people across the UK.''
The team of Ross and Ryan are currently on an extraordinary tour all across the country, setting up their tour bus and engaging with the public.
The Battling Suicide Tour had two dates in Manchester last weekend and I caught up with them in Platt Field Park to see their project in action.
I saw for myself how they engaged the public, utilising an unusual first move; namely, 'Your 1st Move Is Hello.'
Passers-by of all ages and chess experience were attracted by the unusual chess sets and needed very little prompting to sit down and play a game. It was interesting to hear the stories of some of the people, a lot of whom had aspects of their lives that had been directly affected by suicides. The tour has been deliberately named to bring the (virtually taboo) subject out into the open.
Another aspect of promoting the art of conversation is to combat the growing sense of isolation as the world recedes behind on online wall. It does seem ironic that the more 'connected' we are, the less connected we really are.
Further details of this remarkable project can be found over at the official 5asidechess website.