Chess: A Reflection of Ourselves

Welcome to the world of chess. A game of analytical thinking, strategy, clear and well composed thought processes, reading your opponent’s moves and a whole lot of mind boggling elements. Feeling overwhelmed in the beginning, one cannot help but wonder how a simple game of black and white squares can gain so much popularity. That is exactly what this article is going to uncover—exploring interviews with fanatics and casual players of the game to gauge what chess means to them. So, buckle up because it’s a long journey till stalemate!

Now, unless you’ve been dwelling around middle earth (yes, LOTR reference), chess is basically a game with two sides, sixteen pieces and it ends when one side can overcome the queen. Throughout history, chess has been used to strategize warfare, acknowledge strengths and weaknesses and even in modern media it is employed to symbolize wit and vigour. In more recent times, it gained a lot of popularity, owing this success to the ever popular combination: quarantine restrictions and the Netflix show, “Queen’s Gambit.”

Chess, being universally recognized, acts as a double-edged sword for itself. Some people may categorize it as a subset to logical and critical thinking and some might label it to be an art in of itself—the board is the canvas, the player is the artist and the moves his brush strokes. Although, to others, it may just be about consistently winning. Amidst this catastrophe of words, genres and thoughts, one cannot help but wonder—what exactly is chess?

Now in my humble opinion, chess is merely a reflection of ourselves. Just as we cannot categorise any individual under one umbrella or thought, we also cannot limit the potential of the game to horses and knights. For Shakespeare, the entire world was a stage and all the people were actors. For Omar Khayyam, the world was a mere chessboard, the people were chessmen and God, the creator, the player. Taking such an analogy into account, do we all not begin our lives like simple pawns with a lot of potential? Do we not lead difficult roles later in life like the Rook, Bishop or Knight? Do we not act selflessly or selfishly to win in the game of life? And, in the end, do we not return back to the same place, just like shutting the board and placing it back into the closet?

In all the little ways that matter, chess, more than any other medium, is a reflection of ourselves.

Just like a coin always has two sides, there’s always the fanatic and the casual player. For the sake of determining how the world of chess revolves around them, I conducted some interviews:

Firstly Mustafa Kamran and Mowahid Imran, the two chess players of the campus, who have made quite a name for themselves in different competitions:

Q1) What’s your motivation to come back to the black and white tiles?

Mustafa: To build after my mistakes and the thinking process behind each move, which easily becomes a guilty pleasure, once you start playing.

Mowahid: The mind race is what makes me come back again and again, to outplay someone or predict a move; there’s no other feeling like it.

Q2) What’s one thing you’d like to change about chess?

Mustafa: I would like black to open.

Mowahid: I’d like more colours for the pieces.

Q3) What’s one thing you hate about the game?

Mustafa: I loathe the En passant move, takes away from the game.

Mowahid: I dislike the stereotypes related to chess.

Now after some viewpoints from the game-crazed, it was only fair to balance it out with equal views from a more casual player, so I went ahead and questioned Amaan Baig.

Q1) Why do you play chess?

Amaan: I play chess to kill time. Playing chess with someone also gives you an insight into how they think in a way; how creative they are or how experienced.

Q2) How would you compare yourself to someone who’s crazy about the game?

Amaan:  I’m astounded by the fact that some fanatics of the game can look at the wooden board with locked focus for hours on end. It’s also very amusing to see chess ‘stans’ play against one another, the faces they make on their blunders are gold.

In a nutshell, it could be concluded that, for the fanatics, a game of chess is like a shot of dopamine, which they fall prey to. Whilst, for the more easy going person, it’s like a shot of detox—to take a break from the day to day things.

After reading everything, the main question for the reader is: to play or not to play chess? Well, the solution is pretty simple: if you like puzzles and challenges or just like to outplay other people then, yes, you should pick it up. However, the game does have its cons: it can be pretty mentally exhausting to play a game of chess, especially after a long day. The game tends to leave you irritated and annoyed at times. To strike a balance between the two should be the ideal goal.

If you’re lucky, then you can take away from the perilous journey of learning to play chess to reading people with a sharp mind.

Ahmad Tahir
TLC Writer

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