Cessolis gives each piece and its movement on the chessboard a symbolic value representative of the new social relationships which were established at the end of the Middle Ages. It is around the city, which has become economically pre-eminent, around which medieval society is now organized. For the author, “the chessboard represents the city of Babylon. It has sixty-four squares for each district of the city, built according to a grid plan”. The pawns symbolize the different trades and administrative functions that govern the city. The chess board itself looks like a “villeneuve”, with its grid, its surrounding walls (the edge of the board) and its four corner towers.
Through the game of chess, Cessolis develops an idealized conception of the social organization of the city. On the one hand, he attributes power and duties to each “noble” piece: the royal couple (supreme authority), the “alphins” (justice), the “knights” (defense), the “rooks” (public order). It is no longer a question of waging war but of administering the city. On the other hand, the hitherto undifferentiated mass of pawns is presented according to precise social categories. The original de Cessolis pawns include a labourer, a woodsman, a physician, a magistrate, a chemist, an innkeeper, a constable and a villain. The pawns no longer represent the “pedestrians” delivered as mere pasture on the chessboard, as described by chivalry novels. They are “social actors”, distinguished by their individual functions and assigned with missions and rules of behavior. As part of the “exemplary” literature – the collections of examples having provided the author with numerous developments -, the book offers everyone an example to follow, by “subjectifying” each piece, whose place and behavior on the chessboard must apply to the city.