I played my first game of chess last Saturday morning. There was beautiful sunshine streaming through our kitchen window as we made breakfast and had a lazy chat about what we might do that day when my husband suggested it. I was feeling optimistic and in an overall good mood, so I agreed.
Allow me to qualify this topic now by stating that I knew what I was getting into when I chose to add “learn chess” to my 31 Goals; I’m a bit of a sore loser. I do love to play board games and sometimes winning or losing isn’t the point for me (see Pictionary, Scrabble, Blokus, etc.), but sometimes it is the whole point and I sometimes get testy when I’m losing. This, then, was a big reason for me to add this to my list. I think being able to lose, and lose graciously, is an important skill that can help us analyze and learn from our mistakes; I think I have room for improvement in terms of playing board games (or card games, or dice games, or any games for that matter).
My view of chess has always been one of awe; to be able to plan so many steps ahead how to win the game based on countless moves your opponent might or might not throw at you seems like a daunting task indeed. But, I like a challenge and always assumed that if I tried to play, I would get it and I would succeed. I just wasn’t that interested.
So we’re sitting there at the kitchen table, and after a few minutes of some initial reminders of how the pieces moved and some explanation of various opening moves I could make, including a play-by-play of how to win in only 4 moves, I already felt entirely overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do because I felt like every single move I could make would be anticipated by my husband who would then turn around and blindside me with a brilliant move and possibly a checkmate. My initial overconfidence and naïveté was replaced instantly by an all-consuming fear that held me frozen for a few minutes while my husband watched me curiously, eager to start.
Needless to say, I lost. As my husband so kindly pointed out to me, expecting any different would be like expecting to win a foot race against Donovan Bailey, when I’d never run before; not that he is to chess as Donovan Bailey is to running, but it puts things in perspective. My husband has much more experience with chess than I have – he’s played countless games, he completes chess challenges online, he has studied the different moves – and so his analogy makes sense. But in a moment full of seething frustration at my total failure at a game I feel like I should be good at, logic just didn’t work for me.
Hence, the whole working on my sore loser issues…
The other obvious reason I added this goal to my list was to participate in something my husband so obviously enjoys and has a keen interest to share with me. I think it’s important for couples to find hobbies and activities to do together. He’s expressed interest before about teaching me to play chess, but I always politely declined since he had plenty other people to play with and that I really have no interest in games that are far more complicated than need be.
But putting together my list of goals was all about challenging me to not only live a more active life and eat healthier, but also to grow in other ways – ways that will enrich my life and, corny as it may sound, fulfill my soul. So I decided that, in order to better myself in terms of my sore loser tendencies, and to grow as a person by learning a new game (and really developing the skill of strategy), and to provide another option for spending time with my husband, I should add “learn chess” to my goals.
I was also bolstered by an idea my husband brought forth for how exactly he would teach me to play. A few years ago my husband worked with a fellow who taught his girlfriend to play chess by using a strategy of removing a piece of his army every time he won, until his girlfriend won; every time his girlfriend won, he replaced one of his previously removed chess pieces. His idea was that this would provide his girlfriend with an advantage while she learned the game, and once she was able to win he would challenge her further as his side slowly came back to full strength. He claimed that it took the better part of a year before she was able to beat him with all of the pieces on the board. My husband liked this idea and originally mentioned it to me a long, long time ago. Now that learning chess is one of my goals, this is the exact model we intend to follow.
I guess we’ll see if it makes any difference when my husband is “one man down” at our next match…
Do you know how to play chess? Do you enjoy strategic board games?