Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The overall picture

When is a game not a game? The answer is, of course, when it instructs. For example, the social skills necessary to communicate effectively with your Bridge partner are clearly relevant in a wider context. And so it is with chess. If you want to win a chess game you must avoid rigidity. Becoming fixated on queening a passed pawn may very well blind you to the need to defend a weak spot in front of your vulnerable king. You need to be aware of the overall picture, to know what is going on in all corners of the chessboard. Perhaps you will then learn to apply this lesson in the great chessboard of Life too - with obvious benefits.

Let's consider the wealthier individuals amongst us. My point is not to criticise the rigidity they exhibit in focussing on wealth acquisition at the expense of all else but merely to point out that, in terms of aquiring an overall awareness of life's richness, they may have missed out. They do not see the weak spot in front of their king, even if the passed pawn, on which they diligently focus, is successfully pushed home. To quote from a recent article by George Monbiot (published in the Guardian 29th January 2013) - "the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being". He goes on to say that

 "Secession from the concerns and norms of the rest of society characterises any well-established elite. Our own ruling caste, schooled separately, brought up to believe in justifying fairytales, lives in a world of its own, from which it can project power without understanding or even noticing the consequences. A removal from the life of the rest of the nation is no barrier to the desire to dominate it. In fact it appears to be associated with a powerful sense of entitlement"

Perhaps chess, in some small way, teaches you the disadvantages of obstinately pushing one single agenda - to the exclusion of all other objectives such as "the concerns and norms of the rest of society". Chessplayers become accustomed to seeing how events on one part of the board, seemingly disconnected, nevertheless affect events on another. This concept of the 'overall picture' is developed further in this extract from an article about 'interconnectiveness' in a Buddhist website, thus:

"Buddhism teaches that our lives are constantly developing in a dynamic way, in a synergy of the internal causes within our own life (our personality, experiences, outlook on life and so on) and the external conditions and relations around us. Each individual existence contributes to creating the environment which sustains all other existences. All things, mutually supportive and related, form a living cosmos, a single living whole"

Incidentally, I know a (strong) chessplayer who is also a Buddhist. He is Ivan Petrovitch and here is one of his poems, "BECOMING".


We have to dance overtop abysses
To laugh at everything and everyone
We have to overcome the here and now
To be a bridge and not the end
We have to dwell with uncertainty
To doubt, to doubt, to doubt
Everything is open to question
Values, concepts and precepts
“balance” and madness
most noble sentiments
science, history, religion,
nothing, absolutely nothing,
can be deemed “final”
finishing is atrophying stagnating, dying...




Ivan Petrovitch

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