Skip to comments.Chess and True Freedom
Posted on 02/18/2014 9:33:39 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
The game of chess is never going to rival soccer or the NFL for popularity. Five hours of watching two players sitting in chairs thinking deep thoughts doesnt seem like much widespread viewing potential. It is remarkable, then, that this month chess is enjoying global enthusiasm and popularity like it hasnt since Garry Kasparov played IBMs computer Deep Blue in the 1990s or, even further back, the electrifying performance of Bobby Fischer against Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, 1972.
If youre an average American, you probably dont know anything about any of it, so I want to take the opportunity to share this with you: the greatest chess player in the world is a 22-year-old Norwegian by the name of Magnus Carlsen. Get used to it, because it will likely be true for just about the remainder of your lifetime. Greatest in the world is not a matter of opinion, either. Carlsen possesses the highest chess rating of any player in history (2870) and is known, for the time being, as World Number 1. Added to the mystique of youth and brilliance is the fact that Magnus is not your average awkward chess nerd, but is athletic, affable, humble, and handsome enough to get endorsement contracts.
He is currently the challenger in a twelve game match with reigning five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand in Chennai, India, where he has a virtually insurmountable lead. In fact, the match may well be over as youre reading this, in a mere ten games because Magnus appears to not need the full twelve to defeat the World Champion.
I have never watched chess until this event. Who would? But the hype surrounding Carlsen proved too much for me to ignore, so Ive been joining in with the hundreds of millions of others around the globe tuning in to the livestream. It has been incredibly stimulating, as the commentators do an excellent job explaining all the various scenarios that could play out with certain moves. I am too poor a player to do much guessing about the moves Grandmasters might make, so I think about other things.
Like how chess teaches us a fundamental lesson for life.
Contemporary culture teaches us that freedom is the ability to do whatever we desire, whenever we desire it. Creativity and fulfillment is found in a realm absent of boundaries, borders, and restraints.
But consider the following:
Chess has a finite number of pieces (32).
Chess has a finite number of squares (64).
Chess has ironclad rules of movement for every piece.
Yet the possible game variations are, for all practical purposes, infinite. (The actual number is 10 to the power of 120, which, sources tell meI have no way of personally verifying itis more than the number of atoms in the observable universe.)
You see, there are reasons people like Fischer and Spassky, Kasparov and Karpov, Carlsen and Anand dedicated and continue to dedicate their lives to understanding and playing this deeply mysterious game. Far from feeling constricted and having their style cramped by all these squares and boundaries and rules, they instead find virtually infinite creativity and freedom. They simply wouldntand couldntif it were otherwise. The strict rules do not result in boring, uniform results, but rather endless possibilities and new ideas. Sometimes they result in games of jaw-dropping brilliance.
Those 32 pieces and 64 squares teach us that true freedom, creativity, and fulfillment only occur in the context of order. That means boundaries and rules.
So it is with this morally ordered universe. Personal freedom, creativity, and fulfillment are not found in doing whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want, with or to whomever you want. They are found when you conform to the moral order of things. Sometimes you might not see it right away. Many a chess game has a long, painful middle game when you have to slog it out for twenty moves before the end is clearly seen. Who cannot relate to that as an analogy for much of life?
For example, it relates to economics: cheap, ill-gotten gain isnt fulfilling, but an honest dollar (earned success) is. Or how about sex? Which is more fulfilling: sticking with marriage vows over the long term, even in rough times, or being tossed to and fro by every fleeting wind of desire?
Whatever you happen to be struggling with, whether it is hating that certain somebody (anger), cheating on that upcoming test (lying), or maybe over-leveraging yourself with debt (greed and coveting), remember this simple lesson from the game of chess: the rules do not hamper your freedom.
They make you truly free.
Very fascinating thesis in this piece. Without rules and order, there can really be no freedom.
If only those who swear to uphold the Constitution knew what it means and honored their oath. It is as if every branch of government has gone off the deep end.
Great post, thanks. It should be stapled to every copy of the Constitution.
Liberals would like to make every man a pawn, but reality does not work that way.
The problem is, in this new milieu, that cheating itself becomes a “rule.”
I’ve actually had a liberal tell me that “the law” is whatever you can get away with.
The game of chess is never going to rival soccer or the NFL for popularity
Straight from the evil one.
The liberal in question was specifically referring to the open violations of immigration laws by Obama, in this instance.
Get into the game a little more than just casually and you will discover the seemingly endless depth of beauty in chess. I play through a lot of Fischer games and am astounded at how fascinating and entertaining they can be (look up "Game of the Century" for an example of stunning brilliance exhibited by 13-year-old Fischer.) Players, entire games, have their own distinct "personalities." Tal the attacker. Fischer the tactician. Steinitz the positional master. Even different eras featured different styles and popularity of play.
Physical sports, with rules that now constantly change, really can't rival the timelessness of chess when you truly understand it.
Enjoyed this, thanks!
When he would get in front of a player, the player would make his move and my friend would respond with his move immediately, and move on to the next player. So you had plenty of time to decide on your next move before he got back to you. When it was over he had 14 wins and 2 draws.
I asked him how he could do that,since most of the players were considered reasonably good chess players. He said a good chess player immediately sees the right move,based on the position of the pieces.. When they play head to head with another professional, they have time to do more analysis, but usually end up going with their first instinctive move.
One of my friends gave him a good game and he wrote the game down from memory. I gave it to my friend who is a good chess payer and he said it was a correct representation of the game he played against him. - Tom
Everyone is a pawn....Just a matter of who your king is.
By the way I do happen to enjoy the game of chess and welcome all challengers!
The world is ordered in such a manner that we recognize varying levels of earthly authority beyond that of king and pawn. The entire creation is ultimately subject to the Creator's authority, but he does not deal with us as mere pawns.
Mongo only pawn in game of life...
That is what they teach in law school. Along with truth is whatever you can twist it into being with clever words.
“Five hours of watching two players sitting in chairs thinking deep thoughts ...” Um, not really. I’ve done it. What is happening is two people are intensely focused upon sixty-four squares where an assortment of chess pieces having different power factors are placed and maneuvered. It’s a game. It’s not deep thinking, it is intense thinking, unfolding the potential positions for an opponent’s pieces and how to counter and overcome them. It’s a game, albeit a game where the ability to focus intensely and for a long duration is essential. Some of what makes up a genius mind is present with really good chess players. But so far we do not call computers ‘geniuses’ and to have a computer making ‘deep thoughts’ will require that machine embrace issues of morality, survival, and love/hate relationships. Chess is not delving into those areas.
My dad taught me how to play, and I never could beat him. I taught my son how to play, and after a couple of years, I couldn’t beat him either. Must have skipped a generation. Think I’ll stick to table tennis...
You might want to check this out?
Who’s to say a professional chess player’s mind does not occasionally delve into the sublime. I know I could not sit there for hours at a time and think only about 64 squares, 32 chess pieces, and how to strategize with them. Of course that’s probably why I never won a game.
That sounds like me. Left in the dust when it comes to chess.
Nice essay. Thanks for posting.
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