Romance and the immortal game

Towards the end of November I was sick of chess. Then my chess addiction overwhelmed me again. For me, something mystical and almost spiritual grabs me when playing before sunrise while I am still in my jams and slippers and I am drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The loneliness I felt before falling asleep fades. The sun rises. The construction workers begin work across the street. Until then, I am oblivious to everything except the board.

I’m studying a game I am playing right now where I am about to go a pawn up leaving me with a passed pawn of my own in the center of the board. The strategy seems simple: protect that pawn and move it down the board to get a queen. Other games I am playing are not so clear. The possible combinations of moves seem beyond my intellect, imagination, and control.

My pocket chess remains my constant companion. It along with my iPhone guarantee me a game no matter where I go. Whether I play or not, I derive comfort from knowing I could.

I am starting to enjoy analyzing the games I’ve lost. They seem like failed romances and lost loves. I may have lost, but I was once there in the heart of the game. I recall the opening moves when anything seemed possible. Most of the time, I do not outright blunder, but make a series of less than best moves. Then my intuition kicks in. I feel I am going to lose before I actually spy the event. Then the eventual opponent’s move that beats me appears from the mist. I know intellectually the game is over before she makes the move. I hope she does not see, but she does.

Chess lends itself to metaphors for warfare, morality, and romance. Beyond its extreme intellectual challenge, chess excites the imagination because of these metaphors. One goes beyond the struggle to master the space and time and value inherent in the game.

I think chess players are all partly romantics even though it is a game that computer programs have now mastered beyond humans’ ability to beat them. The computers play the game differently than the human mind. They play a game of sophisticated mathematical calculation while humans play a game of geometric patterns bolstered by unconscious metaphors. Chess players are not afraid of failed romances, for they are romantics and many romantics enjoy the suffering caused by lost loves.  If chess was only cold calculation for humans, they would not play it.

I am thankful for chess these cold late Autumn days. A new game always awaits. Hope always attends the opening moves. Victory just might be possible if only I get it right this time.

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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