Friday, May 20, 2011

The Game of Chess

I’ve always wanted to learn to play Chess, but always held back because it looked too complicated.  My cop-out excuse was that I didn’t know anyone who played the game, therefore, I would never have anyone to play with.  The truth is that I never asked anyone if they knew how to play.  It was easier to avoid the effort of learning to play than to have to deal with inevitable defeat (the game looked SO hard).  So, I have spent the entire 41 (ok, almost 42) years of my life wanting to learn the mysterious game.  I would see it being played in movies and on TV, and I secretly thought that those playing were much more intelligent than I.  I never felt the push I needed to conquer my fear and simply learn the game…until recently.

My almost-8-year-old son, Jacob, told us about a month ago that he wanted to learn to play Chess.

“Now’s my chance,” I thought, “I can learn to play this game with my young son…he will be an easy opponent in the beginning…after all…he’s still in 2nd grade and surely I can learn to play well enough to beat him until he catches on to the game.”  I knew eventually his smarts would overtake me, but maybe I could enjoy a short period of superiority at this.

Since his birthday was coming up, I planned to get him a Chess board for his gift.  That would give me a few weeks to squeeze in some googling sessions to learn a little about the game.  I knew enough to know that each game piece has its own rules, but up until this point I couldn’t even name the individual game pieces.  With my busy life, I hoped to get in a few quick study sessions before we got the Chess board.

Unfortunately for me, Jeff immediately began teaching Jacob to play virtually on the laptop.  And apparently Jeff knows a thing or two about this game.  I was surprised to learn this about my husband.  In our 12+ years together, the subject of Chess had never come up.  I had never thought to ask him if he knew how to play.  I guess I just assumed he didn’t since he never mentioned it.  Now I had someone else I could play this game with.

“Uh oh…he’s going to be a very worthy opponent…this isn’t good,” I thought to myself.  You see, my husband is the super-smart type who sits quietly and observes, appearing to be uninterested and a little out of the loop until he wows and impresses you with his thoughts.  Just when you think he’s mentally checked himself out of whatever’s going on around him, you suddenly realize he’s been a step ahead of you the entire time.

Jeff continued to teach Jacob, but I decided to wait until we actually owned a Chess board.  I wanted to touch the pieces and pick them up with my own hands.  I’ve never been much on computer games, and quite honestly the entire virtual game of Chess seemed to intimidate me even more than the thought of learning to play.

Jacob learned quickly, as I suspected he would.  He is not a slacker, and his little mind has often wowed and impressed me just like his father’s.  And so, within a few short weeks, Jacob mastered the game and understands the object, the moves, and is developing his strategies like a champion player.  Then we get a Chess board, and I begin to learn.

After a few days, I have to say that it really is not as hard as I thought it would be.  I still mess up occasionally and move a Castle diagonally or forget that a Pawn can’t attack from the front, but Jacob quickly corrects me and we continue with the game.  I actually managed to outwit the little stinker last night and finally won a game.  He wanted to play again immediately, but I wanted to wait a little while and gloat in my victory.  An hour later, we were back to him giggling again as he put my King into checkmate.

I have noticed that Chess is a lot like life.  Life is made up of different people, like different game pieces on a Chess board.  They all move differently, have their own rules and their own agendas.  They can get you into trouble quickly if they don’t work together, but they can also help you gain a powerful advantage over your opponent if you don’t lose focus on what you’re doing.  How many times in life have I allowed myself to be in checkmate because I didn’t watch carefully at what the opponent was planning, or because I allowed myself to lose focus on the task in front of me?  Thank goodness we have a Saviour who is able to take us out of checkmate and give us a second chance.

It really doesn’t surprise me that Jacob has already mastered this game and understands the intricacies of the pieces.  I just hope he recognizes how very much like life this game is, and that he stays focused on the object of the game.

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