Lunch Post: On Chess

Obviously I’ve fallen behind on my blogging.

The past few weeks have been a time warp of holiday cheer. Not to mention that Stonecoast is starting up another residency, and even though I’ve graduated I am still becoming sick, as is tradition.

But I’m persevering. A late post is better than no post, right? Hopefully my fanbase (Hi, Rachel!) will understand.

As I traveled across New England this holiday season, I downloaded a few chess apps to keep myself entertained. I never play chess. At all. But every few years I entertain the notion and download a few apps on my phone, somehow thinking that the intervening time has given me the discipline necessary to become a formidable chess player.

Of course that never happens because chess is impossible.

I keep trying to play games, usually setting the difficulty to whichever level seems most like my speed, usually depicted by a cartoon of an eager boy in a baseball cap with the caption “This level is great for beginners, children, and certain types of livestock!”

And I’m always presented with some puzzle that looks like this garbage here:

White to mate in 1

And usually I jab at the phone screen, emitting a few apelike grunts, before blind luck guides me to the solution, and the app gives me an uneasy advertisement for the Chess 4 Kidz! app.

The theory is that the practice of chess hones skills that can carry over into other spheres of my life. Chess is a game of exploring possibilities, of testing forms as pieces cooperate to achieve a unified end, much the same way stories are constructed from the individual elements of plot, characterization, and prose. The problem is chess requires two things that I think I’m incapable of.

  1. Keeping track of multiple priorities at once.
  2. Fully understanding the consequences of your actions.

So of course, I’m terrible at chess. I’ve gotten to the point where I can solve some endgame puzzle pretty easily, but actual gameplay far exceeds my ability. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before my chess app uninstalls itself, convinced that it was downloaded by an exuberant toddler rather than a functioning adult.

I would fare much better at chess if it relied more on emotional intelligence, or perhaps trivia. If, for example, the app asked me to name all the bosses in Mega Man X and then made the best move possible if I get all the answers correct, I feel like I would have an advantage.

There is a mysticism which surrounds this game. Chess has long been associated with intelligence, reasoning, and wisdom. And I want to think I’m intelligent. I have opinions on contemporary art, damn it.

Of course how intelligent can I be, if I just noticed that in my joke puzzle above there isn’t even a black king to put in check?

Oh God I can’t even play fake chess correctly.

All right, time to uninstall again.

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