By Gulliver D. Alumbro Jr.

“The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it.” ― The Morals of Chess, Benjamin Franklin [1750]

Staring out into the vast emptiness of a twilight sky, I couldn’t help but ponder as to what people did a thousand years ago when there was a lack of electric power, appliances, technological advancement, devices, or console games. I wondered what games they played back then or how they whiled away their time. Chess effortlessly drifted into my mind.

The game of chess might have survived ages not only for its entertainment value but also for killing time. Moreover, it might have been the best game that was played by rulers and noblemen alike for it is never outdated, is portable and has this hand-crafted availability. A new game usually runs its course as a trend but so far chess has survived not merely decades but countless generations.

The history of chess is intriguing in itself and still open for discussion and debate. It has been contested by several countries with regard to origin. The predecessors of chess might have been from India, Persia, or even China. An Iranian chess set was discovered and dated back as early as the 12th century. Chess was probably carried and passed on by merchants, soldiers and vagabonds over continents across cultural boundaries.

By the year 1000 A. D. chess had caught like wild fire and spread all over Europe. In modern times, what was once a mere game was elevated as a sport and even recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Roughly, at present, ten percent of the world’s population knows how to play chess.

Chess is played on a battleground board of 64-squared black and white tiles occupied by 16 pieces of opposing forces, composed of kings, queens, bishops, knights, rooks and pawns. Two kingdom rivals pit battle along the sidelines towards the center. The fight for positioning, gaining pieces and grasping victory ensues. The game is won by capturing the enemy’s king. Checkmate is declared upon the capture. Rarely, a draw would be in the offing.

Playing chess is akin to the game of life which requires a sharp wit, brilliance in strategy and guts for glory. Sometimes you win, sometimes, inadvertently, you lose. There are countless variations and openings as to how the game can be executed. The opening moves of the aggregate pieces are critical in establishing the strengths needed in fronting an attack or the weaknesses in mounting a defense. The equilibrium between defense and attack in the mid-game may determine the outcome of the game. The capture of the opponent’s king in the end game is always priceless victory. Checkmate!

The three L’s that continually control, shape and hone my life, I attribute to chess: law, life and love. Law, like chess, is spirited by rules and regulations for the benefit of both the citizens and the State. Life, like chess, requires planning and should failure impede, one should overcome or at least try again. Successful people have more or less failed in one form or another. Love, like chess, requires certain sacrifices in order to succeed. Love, is after all, work; a residue of duty and commitment.

Thus, in playing chess we learn some ways in dealing with life, love and law which requires a blend of prudence, diligence and persistence. One cannot be expected to win all the time in life but one may attempt to always aim for success.

One may keep humility in winning and yet still retain a certain degree of pride in losing. It is a classic game which will surpass other present games and survive another thousand years and probably even more.

The writer is a food technologist, holds a bachelor of law and is currently teaching conversational English at Sisa English Language School in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province. He may be reached at gulliverkorea@yahoo.com.