Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Poetics of the Chessboard

I haven't posted in a while -- too much work and, unfortunately, no time for chess! Last Thursday, I played my first game in ages -- a lucky OTB victory against a 1700 player. Since I won't have time to study openings, tactics or endgames in any depth, I decided to spend some time on visualization. As Kevin Spraggett observes in his Reflections (an excellent read, by the way): "Knowing the characteristics of the board is extremely important. Books spend too much time on the pieces, not realizing that much is missed by neglecting a closer study of the relationship of the board with each separate piece."

Yesterday, I started studying the chessboard more closely, trying to memorise the colour of each square, looking at diagonals, and so forth. Simple facts that may or may not be beneficial to my overall performance, but nonetheless fascinating: when you examine the chessboard, the squares become alive. After all, the pieces don't really care whether the squares are black or white. For them, they are merely a visual help. But for the squares themselves, their colour is their identity.

I have begun to spin a narrative about the squares so as to remember their characteristics, the white squares representing the forces of Good, the black squares the forces of Evil. Both are caught up in an eternal struggle for supremacy, even though deep down they both know that they are forever bound to their place. And each square has its own history to tell, about the pieces it harbours, about the battles it has participated in: e4, the shining hero, clashes with e5, his evil twin brother; behold the treacherous f2 square, the valiant c4 square, or the meek a2 square that feels a bit lost and isn't sure it wants to be on the board in the first place. I try to imbue each square with a personality as a guide to think about the complex and often ambivalent relationships they share amongst each other. It's a fresh and fun approach to chess to keep my mind on the game without having to study too hard. And who knows, perhaps it'll give my chess visualization skills a boost.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post!