Chess – What piece are you?

My love of chess came from one of my first close friends. Graham was chalk to my cheese, he was wiry and athletic to my… you got it! We both loved nature and I will always remember the day spent tracking deer in the forest, traversing water filled ditches, him teaching me how to overcome in my incapable state. He taught me how to haul my weight up a rope and have adventure where it might be had. He also taught me chess. I’m really not sure what I gave back to him?

The day he taught me chess he beat me in four moves. He did it again and again and I began to learn how to stop him. He had a variation on this opening that obliterated half my pieces if I managed to stop him check mating me. He was relentless and this is how I learnt the finer intricacies of what isn’t so much a game as a life metaphor. I was learning to fight. Life was crashing on top of me and I had allowed it to quell, squash and ridicule me. These moments gave me the fortitude to take the initiative and begin to fight back with the limited arsenal at my disposal.

And so these first games, where it seemed all his pieces were unleashed and I was always stranded in harbour, ended and we began to compete.

Chess club became my haven. Dungeons and Dragons club was another, a different form of anorak band. But within this band of nerds there was a form of belonging that held me steady in those years that sledge hammer you one after the other. They throw every heavy accusation seeking to bludgeon any formative flutterings. If teenagers were cocoons then the state secondary school experience sought to stamp flat any transformation that was noticed.
So chess!

My first year in secondary school saw me develop my game so that I was challenging the members of the team who were two or more years older. My game was untutored. I shunned learning specific named openings and I could never get my head round notation. Those two things would have heaped more pressure than I wanted… I just wanted to play. I started to beat Graham regularly. And then I was asked to represent the school. I had reached a pivot that sought to pitch me into situations I wasn’t ready for. I declined and ran away.

My chess days since have been extremely few. Few people want to pit themselves against another in a game so complex that there is no place to hide ignorance. It becomes plainly obvious your ability as soon as you begin. It is why I have found few people to play against. One challenge I did take up was against two lifetime players. I hadn’t played for years and to negate my rustiness I played very aggressively and hemmed my opponents in with bold brash moves that probably lacked refinement and class. But it had the desired effect. I was a move away from ‘mate’ in the first game and would have had it if the friend hadn’t gasped. The subtle warning was enough!

Having just watched a film based on Bobby Fisher, I had an affinity to his style and how his unpredictability unsettled his opponents.
For me life has to be made with bold moves. I don’t want to be found shuffling my pieces and waiting to respond to what is thrown at me. I suppose I would rather throw things at life and see how it responds.

Saying that, I wondered the other day what piece I was in the game?

The queen? There is a trail of influence and power, like a magnetic force repelling and attracting. I am not that piece.

The bishop or rook? Have predatory strategic aims, often willing to remain inactive until a strike is required. No…I’m too impatient for that piece.

The knight? The lively go everywhere, do everything piece, needing a bit between its teeth.

No…I reckon I’m a pawn. Self effacing? Probably. Moving…Yes. Up front, willing to be directed with the potential to become anything on the board. Yes. When I notice the situation I am in, I am willing to be a pawn to further the offensive…as long as there is a plan!

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