Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Agincourt Gambit

Here is a delightful cartoon from xkcd for chess players that also appreciate history.

During the height of the Middle Ages the star of the battle field was the mounted Knight. With a long lance he could strike infantrymen before they got within sword range and then quickly move on. But the tide was turned at Agincourt where common English longbowmen (pawns) devastated the French noble cavalry (knights). They shot the horses with arrows!

From Wikipedia,
The French cavalry ...  charged the longbowmen, but it was a disaster, with the French knights unable to outflank the longbowmen (because of the encroaching woodland) and unable to charge through the forest of sharpened stakes that protected the archers. [Horses] armoured only on the head, [became] dangerously out of control when struck in the back or flank from the high-elevation long range shots used as the charge started. [The] wounded and panicking horses galloped through the advancing infantry, scattering them and trampling them down in their headlong flight from the battlefield.
For Shakespeare fans, this battle was portrayed in Henry V where King Henry gives a famous St. Crispin's Day speech to rally the troops
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;

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