CHESS in sign language

How do you sign "chess" in ASL? Learn a few tidbits of Deaf history and culture.

Meaning: a two-player strategy board game played on a chessboard, a checkered gameboard with 64 squares arranged in an 8×8 grid. The players aim to checkmate the opponent's king to win.

Usage in classifier, storytelling, prose.

Regional variation.

How to sign for the parts of chess?

Pawn => fingerspelling PAWN or informally sign SOLDIER. Rook => tower or fingerspelling. Knight => HORSE (frequently preferred) or KNIGHT. Bishop => BISHOP. Queen => QUEEN. King => KING.

Deaf Culture/History

The Polish postage stamp (1956) celebrated the 1st World Chess Championships for the Deaf in Zakopane, Poland.

Postage stamp of Poland
Image credit:

Deaf Experience

Equal but Wow Art by Kim Anderson
Image courtesy of Kim Anderson.

American Deaf artist states on her work "Equal But Wow" (2019) watercolor, "Each chess piece has a strategic power. Some are gifted with superior powers (or privileges) than others. The queen has the greatest power of mobility on the chessboard. When the queen stalks, no piece is safe, and kings tremble behind their stockade of pawns. A Deaf and hearing queen will always have equal power on the board, but one can't help but notice that the Deaf queen is unique and has a WOW factor."

In her statement, both hearing and deaf queens have the same footing in terms of being a human. However, when it comes to language, there is a difference of experience. Signed language is "vibrant and 3-dimensional" that the colorful queen represents. In contrast, the monochromtic queen signifies a spoken language as "linear".

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