Chess is believed to have originated in Eastern India, c. 280–550, in the Gupta Empire, where its early form in the 6th century was known as chaturaṅga (Sanskrit: चतुरङ्ग), literally four divisions [of the military] – infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariotry, represented by the pieces that would evolve into the modern pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. Thence it spread eastward and westward along the Silk Road.
While reading The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan, professor of global history at Oxford University, this reader reflected on two continual thoughts, “This seems to be about who gets to rule the world,” and “World leaders often seem to lead as if playing chess, attempting to put the other ‘king’ in check.” Whether it’s Brexit, Make America Great Again, Putin’s PhD dissertation on Russian economy, or China’s resurgence and moves toward building an “economic belt along the Silk Road,” the stakes of the game are increasingly high. What is behind the moves being made on the board? Frankopan’s descriptions imply power, wealth, commodities and natural resources. Is it ensuring prosperity and security for the people they are responsible for as world leaders, or is it driven by personal power and conquest?
As this program of study is Leadership and Global Perspectives, this researcher is curious to learn how the development process and stages of a leader’s life influences her/his leadership style and decision making. Is a leader’s personal development revealed in her/his motives and moves on the chess board?
Frankopan sets the centre of the world where civilization began in the region of Mesopotamia. Then he describes how Hellenistic influence began to sweep across the East with the Greek language heard and seen throughout Central Asia and how Asia then responds with influence of their own including visual images of Buddha because of the effects of the Greek’s religion on the people. He recounts how the “maxims from Delphi were carved on to a monument, including:
As a child, be well-behaved.
As a youth, be self- controlled.
As an adult, be just.
As an elder, be wise.
As one dying, be without pain.
This quote beautifully describes the various growth stages of a human being. One could only hope that the leaders of our world are men and women who are growing in justice, wisdom and maturity and that their leadership would reflect this through selflessness and sacrifice for the sake of those under their watch. Jesus made a clear distinction in describing leadership when the mother of James and John asked if her sons could sit on his right and left in his kingdom. Animosity arose among the disciples because of the conversation and Jesus responded,
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
As Frankopan moves through his new history of the world firmly placing its center in the Mesopotamia region, he seems to be attempting to bring balance to power as he argues against Eurocentricism. He has a somewhat dismal view of the future of the West and describes various backroom decisions made, even in recent decades by U.S. leaders, with disdain. He describes his account of history in a way that has captured attention in today’s chess game, with China on the rise. Memories of this cohort’s visit to Hong Kong last year, sensing the display of power in the fireworks presentation during China’s national holiday, and viewing the news today as protestors stand in opposition to what they perceive as a threat to their long-held democracy, further piques this researcher’s interest in what is lacking in the development of leaders that drives them toward power and personal conquest?
From the crusaders to Chinggis Khan to Saddam Hussein, Frankopan uses metaphoric titles of roads to describe leaders and their narratives in history: The Road to Heaven, The Road to Hell, The Road to Tragedy. These stories reveal the empiric nature of leadership in which power and control consumes even the best intentions. As leaders continue moving across the board today what pawns will be sacrificed in the name of progress? Who will call, “Checkmate!”
 Peter Frankopan, The Silk Road: A New History of the World (xxxx), 6.
 Matthew 20:25-27 NIV