This time, I thought I'd pay a bit of homage to the grand game of chess, not just as a "game," but for the manner in which it informs almost everything. Joyce frequently asks if I'm playing a "game" of chess. To those of us who play, it's a lot more than a game. I took up chess as sort of a counter-phobic pursuit. I tend to make my decisions in life through less than fully analytical means. Additionally, I'm not the most disciplined person in the world. So, with the help of my neighbor and friend Dave (to whom this piece is dedicated), I learned to play chess (albeit rather badly). My idea was to stare my deficits squarely in the face and perhaps by so doing, acquire a bit more discipline and become somewhat more analytical. I believe I have succeeded (especially if the hedge of the word "somewhat" is fully considered).
Beyond disicipline and analysis, my greatest spur to becoming involved was this passage from the great Grandmaster Sigbert Tarrasch who wrote simply and profoundly that, "CHESS, LIKE LOVE, LIKE MUSIC, HAS THE POWER TO MAKE MEN HAPPY." Any pursuit carrying such a promise of happiness is worth investigating. I have never been disappointed - frustrated, yes - but don't love and frustration go hand-in-hand? - The results have been well-worth the effort.
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Perhaps the two greatest young chess players who ever lived are still alive: 1. Bobby Fischer - a total nutcase, and 2. Garry Kasparov - a force for world change.
Permit me not to give any "press" to anti-semite Fischer. But Kasparov should be heard and is being heard by his sworn enemy Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Why should the Russians and the world listen to a great chess player? In his autobiography, Garry Kasparov - Unlimited Challenge, Kasparov offers the wise words of his own esteemed teacher, Grandmaster Mikhail Botvinnik, "In order to solve inexact problems it is essential to limit the scope of the problem so as not to get entangled in it, and only then is there the chance of finding a more exact solution. Hence, it is a mistake to think that chess does not reflect objective reality. It reflects man's thinking."
Here is an example of Kasparov's chess-influenced political analysis:
"Western leaders who still hope that relations with Putin will lead to reforms are similar to chess players who wish to attack only the enemy’s king. One must learn to play against pawns, play on all sides of the chessboard. If you are able to convince the opponent’s pawns and pieces to join you, the enemy’s king will not succeed in standing alone for a long time.”
So, good luck, Garry Kasparov. You're up against a ruthless pro who also knows how to play. In fact he plays so well that George Bush, upon only one visit, declared that he had looked into Vladimir's soul and liked what he saw. But I rather doubt that Bush is a very good chess player.
Here when the game is done,
the last piece moved,
the King with no place to go,
Not dead, not checked,
just frozen forever
in a limbo of his own
creation. No exit.
No entrance. No movement.
No target. No victim.
No attacker. No time.
All the others gaping at him
here in his cave safe
forever in this vacuum-
-packed cocoon unclear,
No loss. No victory.
A draw. A stasis.
No nourishment. No need.