In Chapter 23, "The Yule Ball" of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ron and Harry play a game of chess while procrastinating as Harry doesn't feel like trying to figure out what the egg clue for the second task means. The book says the chess match "culminated in an exciting checkmate of Ron's, involving a couple of recklessly brave pawns and a very violent bishop."

As someone who took high school Literature and has many of the theories about the Harry Potter books on this site, this passage screams symbolism, but of what? Surely this chess match parallels or foreshadows something else that happens in the books, but I can't think of what it would be.

Has Rowling ever said what the symbolism is, or has she ever dispelled the notion that there is symbolism in the match? Are there events in the books excellent parallels for the chess match?

  • 9
    To me it's just cute details to flesh out the gameplay of wizard's chess and remind us we're in a magical world. Commented May 2, 2017 at 5:52
  • 8
    Not everything is symbolic. Smart writers often will try to write at least somewhat in a realistic style; in well-written books, as in life, sometimes interesting things happen that have no relation to the plot. In this particular case, this is merely meant to remind readers that magical chess has pieces with personalities.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 6:15
  • 1
    Every time I read this I think of Ron and Harry as recklessly brave pawns. An answer already suggests it refers to Harry and Cedric, instead, which makes more sense. "Recklessly brave" isn't really a way to describe chess pawns that literally follow exact orders. Perhaps Ron's strategy. Specifically personifying the pieces, though, with characteristics that parallel Harry and people around him... I don't think there's reason to question OPs premise.
    – user31178
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 6:28
  • 5
    @CreationEdge - Why not? Not everything is symbolic. Rowling is known for including lots of quirky little details in her books, after all. Don't forget, a lot of authors (particularly those who haven't been corrupted by literary theory ;) ) are just trying to write characters acting as realistically (or sometimes, as entertainingly) as possible within the confines of their fictional world.
    – Adamant
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 7:30
  • 4
    @CreationEdge - There's no ganging up going on. I just don't think it's symbolism, and I'm saying it (not particularly unkindly, I thought, but maybe I'm wrong). But such a bare response as mine hardly deserves an answer (also, is it less "ganging up" as an answer?), particularly given that the OP asked what the symbolism was, not whether there was symbolism. On the other hand, you seem to have some ideas about the symbolism of this passage. Perhaps you could post an answer?
    – Adamant
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 7:40

1 Answer 1


JK Rowling wrote this to tell the reader about Goblet of Fire's ending.

One can say that the 'recklessly brave pawns' refer to Harry and Cedric Diggory. The 'very violent bishop' would refer to Voldemort.

  • 2
    One might think Voldemort was the Dark King on the chessboard and the very violent bishop was Barty Crouch Jr.
    – RichS
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 6:01
  • 1
    Yes, Crouch/Moody seems like a better fit. Bishops are authority figures, which not-Moody was. Plus, they're all Ron's pieces which suggests the same "side", which for all everyone else knew, not-Moody was.
    – user31178
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 6:31
  • Crouch wasn't particularly violent though. And in this book Voldemort really wasn't checkmated. You did open my eyes to a possibility that I hadn't considered - that the bishop was on the other team rather than on the same team as the pawns. That would seem to open up a lot more possibilities.
    – Readin
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 12:30
  • 1
    @Readin Crouch used unforgivable curses in class demos, killed his own father, attacked Fleur and Krum. Hard to say. I also haven't read that passage in a few years, now, so there could be another context, completely (such as foreshadowing a much smaller scale event).
    – user31178
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 16:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.