“Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move.” (Chinese proverb)
Lately I have been reminded of the day I started to learn chess. It was Christmas and I set myself a new challenge. I found it difficult but interesting. Chess is a strategic board game which has been played for centuries. Playing the game can be a fun, challenging way to stimulate your brain and improve your problem-solving abilities. To me life feels like a game of chess. To be announced as the winner you must be able to outwit your opponent. It is not always as straight forward as we would like; sometimes the people playing the game of life with us have different ideas or priorities that are simply at odds with ours. To play well we need to know how all the pieces move, which, as I learned the game I found the hardest aspect to navigate my way through. One wrong unprocessed move and your piece is gone and the game could be over. So this means we have to plan ahead, every move counts towards the end result. You must see the path ahead, plan the moves before you need to make them, each step builds on the next. A bit like a five year life plan; which I tend to be terrible at. I am far too spontaneous and love to go with the flow. I love my flexibility but I am learning to plan too, and therefore I score more “checkmates”. Having an eye for opportunities, seeing details that others may miss will greatly add to your chess playing genius. It is also vital to have a back-up plan for when things go wrong or when you make a wrong move. Yes I am talking about chess, but do you see the correlation?
The object of the game is to capture the opponent’s king by putting the piece in “checkmate”. Through well thought out moves, each chess piece moves to set the board up for the last critical move of “checkmate”. Beginner chess players need to learn the specific movements allowed for each chess piece before playing. I learned this slowly, and given that I have not had much time to play it I find myself needing a refresher course. So why am I talking about chess? Well I am at that place again in life, calculating my next move, looking at my many options and praying to see the best strategy to get me where I want to be in five years time. Yes a five year plan. I am that person now.
While there are 32 chess pieces on the board, there are only 8 basic moves performed in a game of chess. If only life were as simple as a chess game. Most chess pieces move in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line across the board. One piece, the knight, has a unique move on the board. The rook and king are able to “castle”, while the pawn only moves forward unless capturing an opponent. Once you play a game or two, the way the chess pieces move become almost second nature. Or you could be like me, and need a lot more than a few games. It depends on the level of your opponent, the tougher your choices are than the greater your awareness and survival techniques develop; that’s a lot like life!
All chess sets have the same basic figures represented in order to play correctly. Chess comes with a set of rules. The most powerful of the chess pieces is the queen. Also represented on the chess board are these pieces: the bishop, knight, rook, and the pawn. Each of the various chess pieces have distinct moves allocated to that particular piece. These movements are critical to winning in the game of chess. As too are the choices we make in life, they may seem small, but these choices are also critical in determining where we move next and what are the given opportunities that such a move will bring about in our lives? Before you can start playing chess you will need to be introduced to what these pieces mean. Let me run through them very fast, trust me this will all make sense soon…
The PAWN ~ (♙♟) is the most numerous and (in most circumstances) weakest piece in the game, historically representing infantry. Each player begins the game with eight pawns. The KNIGHT ~ (♘ ♞) representing armoured cavalry. It is normally represented by a horse’s head and neck. Each player starts with two knights; these begin on the row closest to the player, one square from the corner. The ROOK ~ (♖ ♜) formerly the piece was called the castle, tower, marquess, or rector. The informal term “castle” is now deprecated. Each player starts the game with two rooks, one in each of the corner squares on his own side of the board. The BISHOP ~ (♗ ♝) each player begins the game with two bishops. One starts between the king’s knight and the king, the other between the queen’s knight and the queen. The QUEEN ~ (♕ ♛) is the most powerful piece in the game of chess, able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Each player starts the game with one queen, placed in the middle of the first rank next to the king. Because the queen is the most powerful piece, when a pawn is promoted it is almost always promoted to a queen. The KING ~ (♔ ♚) is the most important piece. The object of the game is to trap the opponent’s king so that its escape is not possible (checkmate). If a player’s king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in-check, and the player must remove the threat of capture on the next move. If this cannot be done, the king is said to be in checkmate. Although the king is the most important piece, it is usually the weakest piece in the game until a later phase, the endgame.
So in summary; what can we learn from this ‘endearing to some’, but ‘boring to others’ game called chess? It is so important to plan for the future, even if you fail, at least plan something. Don’t blindly move your pawns without thinking about the outcome. Before you decide to make a move, imagine the scenario and how it will influence your game plan. Your actions will have implications, results, consequences and feedback. Sure it may go terribly wrong but you may well “checkmate” if you stick to your plans and keep moving toward your desired goal. At times I have had to sacrifice a pawn or two in order to win the game or change direction. Sure there are casualties and your dreams may crash and burn, but the game goes on. I don’t say that heartlessly, but I say it with huge respect for pain and the lessons it has taught me. Sometimes goals of a lesser importance must be left behind, in order to embrace the possibility of new things; again something that is easier said than done. Timing is everything, learning to predict the season you are in and the right piece to move or sacrifice. But through all of these endeavours to get it right, the beautiful “checkmate” could be just moments or seconds away. You must fight for what is yours, and this is what (life) and chess is all about; protecting and persevering!
I am learning to play the chess rules again. It is indeed mirrored personally in my own life presently. I must not be passive, or I will be destroyed at the first hurdle. I must be proactive, resilient, brave, courageous and sharp. I must focus all I am on the next game of play; being silent in thought while at other times bold and advancing. I have to be tenacious yet humble. Any sign of overconfidence and I could lose my concentration and be tripped up by my own pride. Are you with me? Are we still talking about chess or are we now firmly challenging our own game plan for life? Well truth be known, life is far more serious to me than chess, but the similarities can be used to reveal our deepest convictions and strategies for life.
I know my chessboard, and all I have is firmly watched over by the greatest game plan giver there is. He helps me make my moves and decide where I should protect a piece or where I should sacrifice a dream in order to achieve something else. He can position me in places I never ever thought were possible, and many times He has. He wrote the rule book and has given it to those who ask. I asked Him many years ago to come and change my approach to life, to take over and change the course of my life. Not only has God done this in my life, but I know whatever befall, whatever sacrifices I must make, the end result (checkmate) that He plans for me will be blessed, and fruitful and eternal. The game is not easy at times, but it need not be so fearful anymore. But this is only because I have the Grand Master coaching my every move and guiding my every step. There will be times when I have to take risks and jump to new places that seem daunting, but I know He sees the outcome and when I do it His way no move is wasted.
“When it comes to chess… You have to have a fighting spirit. You have to force moves and take chances.” (Bobby Fischer)
In closing; play the best game plan you can, muster all your resources together, keep the end in sight and play fair. Love the journey as well as those who play the game with you. Make the best moves you can, based on what seems good and right at that moment. Listen to the Grand Master, He’s speaking; you will hear Him if you listen.