Today I played chess against my oldest brother, George.
It’s nothing new, I’ve only won one game of chess ever, and it was against that very brother in a nail-biter of a match. He claims he was caught off guard by my moves, probably because they are very unconventional thanks to my ignorance of the game. I did kind of win on accident.
Anyway, that single checkmate was one of the most gratifying feelings I’ve ever felt. My mind had worked for it.
My second checkmate is much more elusive.
I usually play matches against my other patient, older brother, Roy, but I have yet to beat him — although George almost always beats Roy.
With every match I play, especially versus Roy, I learn more about the way my brain thinks, and consequently become frustrated that it doesn’t think like Roy’s. The opportunity to make dozens of moves in any one turn overwhelms my novice prowess, clearly because I have quite a slim gauge of which of those dozens of moves would be best.
It is actually quite a daunting task, having to think so far ahead to manifest a checkmate. The process is supposed to start from the very first move called the opening (thank you, The Queen’s Gambit), however I, of course, simply improvise as I go. I guess in a way such a nonstrategic approach trains my brain to respond to constant puzzles and roadblocks, but it truly is a whole other superpower to be able to think ahead.
Whenever I successfully execute a move, one that was truly premeditated, taking into consideration my move and my opponent’s, I am so exhilarated that my next few moves are compromised by the blinding glory of one. good. move.
The Queen’s Gambit obviously showcases an entirely different tier — entirely different stratosphere — of chess that I can’t even fathom, but that doesn’t make my playing any less fun.
Yes, I do get enraged whenever I lose.
Yes, I do lose my *stuff* whenever Roy takes my queen.
Yes, I do always demand a rematch.
And yes, I do proceed to lose again.
But it’s just so fun.
Playing chess is one of those activities, similar to reading, that take up your time but gift the feeling of productivity back to you. I genuinely feel smarter after every match: it is the ultimate cognitive challenge.
Training your brain is endlessly gratifying, and chess became the perfect pastime to bond my siblings and I closer together. Its innately competitive but elegant nature was extremely attractive to us innately competitive, not-so-elegant siblings. An always busy Roy and a constantly stressed-out me love to meet in the middle for a slightly civil game of chess (did I mention I get very flustered?). We both find refuge from our tasks and endless “to-dos” in the elevated world of black and white, feeling very refined as rap music blasts in the background.
Chess matches truly are a different world: a wonderful escape and guiltless hiatus from our bustling, content-saturated, whirlwind reality. Chess is art.
“You’ve gotten better.”
This was Roy’s consolation for me, loss after loss, but it actually consoled me. I got better. Next time, I wanted to be better better. Especially being a seasoned loser such as myself, chess becomes nothing short of addicting, just to see if I can get a little bit smarter, a little bit better at improvisation, and a little bit more cunning and creative.
However my own ineptitude with the fine craft of chess simply makes my respect for proficient players (especially Grandmasters!) that much deeper.
It is an art!
Everyone should play chess.
So I will keep playing until I finally capture that dodgy second checkmate but, until then, I guess I’ll just keep losing.