One and One is One

A chess set created by artist and designer Tri Ngo. The pieces on a table with their shadows creating an image of a city.

Contrivance Four: One and One is One
In Situ: 2017-2018
Maple and Walnut

Eight by eight, black then white then black then white, atop this field of sixty-four squares, two minds melted into one. I watched as two aged men sat across from each other in silence took turns moving the black and white sculptures across the board. This social interaction, absolutely, fascinated my five-year-old mind, for I noticed a sense of trust was emerging between the two men. Counter-intuitive it may seem, but unlike Poker, Chess does not rely upon deceptions to achieve victory. Rather, in Chess, the two players’ cards are on the table–everything is exhibited for the opponent to see. Furthermore, the changing arrangement of the pieces articulates the active relationship between the two players in their constant quests to balance each other. And so, on an eight by eight, black and white grid, the world collapsed for a moment, and the board became the observable map of the two moving minds.

Check-mate: one of the two broke the long silence.

‘Mate,’ how beautiful word to use. Not ‘win,’ but ‘mate’ – one of a pair, partnership, friendship, fellowship, consummation. Perhaps, such is why after a long and blusterous Tempest, Shakespeare wanted Miranda and Ferdinand to engage in the game of Chess, for it represents the consummation of love between the young prince and princess, the reconciliation between the two feuding families, a joining that will build a united country.

Boy! the two men looked over: would you like to learn?


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A chess set created by artist and designer Tri Ngo. The set arranged into a box

Contrivance Four: One and One is One
2017-2018
Maple and Walnut
Boxless Content: 3 x 6 x 9 inches

A chess set by tri ngo titled one and one is one assembled into a sculpture of a house

Contrivance Four: One and One is One: Full House
2017-2018
Maple and Walnut
One House Assembled: 9.5 x 6 x 12 inches

Queen, Bishops, Knights, Rooks: they explained as I sat next to them: these pieces have their own predetermined paths. Knights move in L formations. Rooks move in ranks and in files. Bishops move in diagonal paths. The Queen’s move is the combination of the Rook and the Bishop. The Pawns are unique pieces because their moves are determined by situation and context. Furthermore, Pawns have the hidden potential to transform into other pieces once they crossed over to the other side. For the King, however, although it is the most important piece in the game, it is also the weakest and must be kept safe at all time. For what is a king without the people? What is a king without his knights to defend him, his castles to protect him, his bishops to guide him? What is a king without his love, his queen?


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A ruler of nothing.

Come back here tomorrow, we will start a new game: they nodded.

Tomorrow?

Of course! I may have won today, but I may lose tomorrow: one of two shrugged.

A war today, a war tomorrow; an endless cycle: one of two chimed in.

As my friend sat down across from me: don’t know how to play Chess: she implored.

Let’s build a house; let’s see if we can stack them.


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one and one is one chess set by tri ngo, 2017, icarus Enfolded

Icarus Enfolded

As the pieces came tumbling down,




we laughed.


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one and one is one chess set by tri ngo, 2017, civilians of stones

Civilian of Stone

one and one is one chess set by tri ngo, 2017, home is not a garden form

A Home is not a Garden

one and one is one chess set by tri ngo, 2017, monday morning rush hour form

Monday Morning Rush Hour

one and one is one chess set by tri ngo, 2017, bathing Buffalo form

Bathing Buffalo