Life is but a game

As a child, what made me particularly happy was when as a special treat my father would decide to take me to his office. It was a treat for two reasons; firstly, because his office was situated in one of the more scenic locales in Nainital. Chestnut tress fringed the beautiful wooden colonial edifice that served as his workplace. The other reason why it held such a charm was that the common areas and lounges at his workplace were scattered with chessboards.

The game of chess was a matter of habit and anyone who was taking a break could be found seated next to one of these chessboards. Each one seemed engrossed. I didn’t quite know how to play the game yet, however, the small black and white squares and the little objects on top held a strange fascination.

If and when my father’s colleagues noticed me, they would call me near the table and either explain how each of the six dissimilar pieces moved differently or share a strategy that they had made their own. They would tell me that the queen is the most powerful piece. She could move in any one straight direction — forward, backward, sideways, or diagonally — as far as possible as long as she does not move through any of her own pieces. The rook, the bishop, each had their own special manoeuvres and they would take some pride in sharing some of those manoeuvres with me.

All this fascinated me tremendously and each visit to my father’s office made me better informed about the game. Since I would watch them play, some of them would indulgently let me play with them for a bit. Although I was very young, and not much registered, I still tried to imitate them. Though I mostly lost even before I got a foothold, the fascination continued.

I have forgotten now all that I was taught about chess. However, I still remember some of the lessons I learnt as I tried to understand the game. No one has, for example ever won a game of chess by moving forward alone. Sometimes you have to move backward or side ways to better get a grip of the game. I learnt that is alright to pause in your journey, move back a step, reassess your situation and then move ahead.

I also learn that each one plays the game differently depending on his or her position and we cannot really predict which way the game will go. At best, we can appreciate that each one has his/her special moves which must be respected even as we work on developing our own special moves. Most of all, I leant that you might learn more from a game you lose than from a game you win. Failure, unlike success is a remarkable teacher.

The game of chess, I came to understand, is a miniature of life itself. Your disposition, adaptability, forethought, manoeuvring failure, keeping what is important safe and respecting the different styles and abilities will determine the kind of player you are. After all, it’s not winning or losing but how you play the game that matters.

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Life is but a game

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