Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Chess Set

There is a man, a chess grandmaster, that plays chess constantly. He plays in tournaments and individual games; he plays in person or online; and he plays by e-mail or snail mail. There is no tournament or game that escapes him, and his understanding of the game is unmatched.

The grandmaster, as all chess players do, owns several chess sets, and his library of chess books is endless, but despite having all of the best tools at his fingertips, the grandmaster prefers one chess set above all that he possesses. The set he prefers isn’t the first one he ever owned, and it isn’t the most beautiful set in his collection. The grandmaster’s favorite set is a mix-matched and damaged and worn with age, and the pieces are polished to a shine from use.

The set was given to him by his son who won the set in a hard fought match in which he was apparently defeated. The son’s adversary, however, underestimated the son’s ability, and the son, who learned well from the grandmaster, played a gambit that seemed doomed to failure. It worked, and he won the match and the damaged, mixed and matched chess set which he happily presented to his father.

Since that day, the grandmaster has used that chess set. Time and again, he sets up the pieces and uses them in his intricate plan. Match after match, and game after game, the pieces defend and attack. Every piece is used masterfully. Pawns, bishops, knights, rooks and queens work together to accomplish the grandmaster’s task and move him from the opening, through the middle-game, and into the end-game, and it is in the end game that the grandmaster’s skill shines.

In the end game, the strategy of the grandmaster becomes apparent as he uses the damaged and well worn, polished pieces, usually just pawns and the king, to secure the victory. The grandmaster guides the pawns space by space until the pawns reach their goal and are transformed into the pieces the grandmaster needs to win the game.

When the game is over, the grandmaster picks up the pieces of his favorite chess set, and either sets up for another game, or puts them away for a time. Either way, the set is always in the grandmaster’s care. And the pieces, damaged and worn and polished by use, are loved and held close. One day the grandmaster will retire his set and take its pieces out of tournament play, but until that day comes, everyday is an opportunity to be involved in the game; everyday is a chance to work together to bring the grandmaster the victory; and everyday provides and opportunity for a seemingly insignificant pawn to become the piece that the grandmaster needs to finish the game.