Chess, the game, was introduced to me by my friend in the mental hospital, the one who found me and got me into the place. I am not now nor was I ever any good at it. But he insisted. Said it would train my mind and in training it, might help me remember. Twenty years later, no results on the memory count.
What I do appreciate is the strategy, intellectually and from a distance. One must think many moves ahead, be able to reason in parallel and be able to adjust to the attacks of one’s opponent. Like life. We’d play every night. Or more correctly, he’d beat me every time. I never could get my mind around the many facets of the game even though its true nature was something significant.
One night, he came into the rec room with the board. I started getting my pieces in order but he stopped me. He held out eight Queens and asked that I set them up on the board in such a way that they could not attack one another. Wondering what he was up to I took the Queens and tried. Every set-up I attempted led to a blood bath.
My whole time in the hospital, he hammered me on the game’s intricacies. But as I said, my mind’s not wired that way. After fifteen fumbling minutes of trial and error, he asked, “Do you want to see how it’s done?”
He then set up all eight Queens on the board in such a way that not one could attack.
“Peaceful Queens Conundrum.”
I looked at the board from all angles and he was right. They were at peace.
“Move one and they all devour each other.”
“No. They’re set up out of sync. One board, one Queen. Here we have eight. Their world doesn’t work with eight. So, their new paradigm is tenuous. A stand-off. The first to move may be the first taken out. They have achieved balance but not their end goal.”
“And the end goal?”
“Win the game by taking the King.”
“But you didn’t set up a King.”
“Now you’re learning.”
He then set up the pieces and proceeded to beat me. We never spoke of that mental exercise again but it has stuck with me through the years.