Board game for two players in which the playing pieces are m …
Drinking from fountains of knowledge and wisdom has been the prime quest of man. It is a lifelong ambition—which has remained unquenched throughout history. Human intelligence is a multilateral dilemma, which is characterized by multifaceted tendencies. Both the noble and the ignoble have sought ways of honing knowledge; so as to portray wisdom. Still, reverse bias exists in every electromagnetic grid. And our brains are no exceptions!
Chess is a strategic board game, which was designed for two. However, a group of people can also play it—just by forming two opposing teams. The board is partitioned into eight rows by eight columns: yielding a total of sixty-four squares, which are alternately coated with light and dark colors. The chess rows are termed ranks, while the columns are known as files. I love chess; and would not mind playing it day or night. But before delving deeper into its attributes (and psychological importance), let me first assert that it is not exclusively intellect-oriented.
Sure, I have been fascinated by human intelligence all my life. I have studied it; but can’t seem to get enough. My interest in brain’s functional morphology even took me to the deepest of its anatomic valleys: down to the nuclei of the hypothalamus. Yet, I still hunger for more. So, when I concluded the last of my IQ tests, and was subsequently informed that my overall score was 159, I leered and jeered. I wasn’t exactly sure what that 159 meant; neither am I eager to find out. Heck! A fixed number on a human brain? That is one thing I will continue to find ridiculous! Whenever I hear that exams are not true tests of intelligence, I get incensed. Not because I like or hate exams. But for the fact that the constituents of human intelligence cannot be reliably measured! IQ tests are fun indeed. But they are also inherently deficient. For me, attaching an ambiguous number to any brain is mischievously insane: except for fun. It’s like entrusting faith on the so-called Lie-Detector Tests. It is hopelessly insane! Let’s go back to chess.
Note that this is not an instructional essay on how to play chess. Still, I shall endeavor to give a brief insight. The chess pieces of either side are differentiated only by color (i.e. light or dark shaded). Each player’s brigade/army consists of eight pawn (also known as infantry) pieces, two knight, two bishop, and two castle pieces. (The castle is also known as rook). And then, there is a queen and a king. The objective is to protect and defend the king using all available strategies, tactics, and resources. His downfall means ending the game with a loss.
In descending order, the most powerful pieces (or officers—since they form as sort of military unit) are as follows: Queen—Castle/Rook—Bishop—Knight—Pawns/Infantry. Note that the tactical strengths of the Bishops and Knights are equal. However, I placed the Bishops first only because two Bishop (working in tandem) can effectively checkmate (i.e. defeat) a King, whereas two Knights cannot. The King’s strength is not much—though it doesn’t count per se. And the simple reason for this is that he is the one who will be protected and defended by every other officer. He is usually heavily defended; and doesn’t partake in any assault unless it is certain that he will not be jeopardizing his safety. Nevertheless, he would fight vigorously to defend himself from attacks: or even if it is perceived that his assistance would help his men overpower an intruder (or group of intruders). His ultimate creed is: Safety First.
Professional chess competitions could be traced back to the early 1550s. Typical professional games consist of three stages known as: Opening game, Middle game, and Endgame. The Opening stage of the game usually consists of the first ten to twenty moves (by each player). It is at this positioning period that the bulk of both offensive strategies and defensive tactics are charted. Therefore, this part of the game provides tacit insights into the style, strength, and strategy of the opposition.
The middle game immediately follows the opening game. It is marked by vicious attacks and carnage. Hence, it is usually the ‘bloodiest’ part of the game: with regards to the number of casualties. It is also at this stage that major battles are lost and won; and territories (temporarily or permanently) exchange hands. Filled with onslaught, as well as defensive and counter-offensive pursuits, this middle game is often the longest part of the whole enterprise. The damages and the losses inflicted (and incurred) during this period almost always decide in which direction the pendulum will finally swing. However, there could be signs of a Draw-game here, (i.e. an inconclusive outcome), if the combat expertise of the two warring factions is evenly matched.
As the name implies, the endgame period spans from the end of major onslaughts to the period when the King is captured. With many officers ‘killed’ during the mid-game, the board is often less congested at this time. And, the ambition of most pawns is to advance to the last base of the opponent’s territory: so as to be promoted to a higher officer—usually the ‘omnipotent’ queen.
At this stage of the game, the king is often more active than in the previous periods. The board is free, and navigation becomes easier for him. But so are threats! Every effort is channeled into the best ways of undermining both the opposing king and its remaining lieutenants/defenders. And any wrong move could prove very costly. At last, the game is concluded when a king is cornered, trapped, and capture. The captor/conqueror emerges victorious.
Chess is a very interesting game. But it can be exceedingly complex to fully understand: especially on the professional level. What I have outlined here (above) is the most basic aspect of it. Learning chess requires patience, fortitude, and practice. And contrary to widely held view, one does not need to be very intelligent to play well. Indeed, it requires more analytical tact, more strategic plans, and more doggedness than raw intellect. Anyone who is not mentally deranged can learn and play respectably. And practice often makes perfect!
Teaching chess can be difficult—due to the level of patience required from the teachers, and dedication from the learner. It is very easy to frustrate and discourage both teacher and learner. So, for an absolute beginner, I often recommend grasping the very basics (like mastering how the pieces move, and their individual strengths and weaknesses). Then I would suggest buying a Chess learner’s/directive book along with a cheap Electronic/Computer chessboard. Books help remind one of the rules, assessment procedures, strategic plots, and a number of other vital issues. On the other hand, a computer (or electronic) chessboard is an ever-ready companion. For example, while your best friend may be too tired or too busy to accommodate any more game, the chessboard will play at anytime you want—even in the middle of the night. Thus, you will always have a dedicated practice-companion.
One (cheaply priced beginners’) electronic/computer chessboard that I like and often recommend is the famous “Excalibur” board. It is for anyone from seven years and older. It has a teaching-mode function, and 73 Power Levels—which is quite strong. This board retails for about $20. It runs on four AAA batteries. A new set of which if used three hours per day would last for more than six months.
Finally, my favorite elementary chess book is “Teach Yourself Chess” by Bill Hartston. This is a well-written book with no non-essential detail. The early chapters explained moves, basic game tactics, and maneuvering strategies. And it did so in an almost step-by-step sequence. It also contains a number of historic game moves (for intermediate learners to emulate). The sequences of those famous 1997 games between the then World Champion, Gary Kasparov and IBM’s supercomputer, Deep Blue, are outlined in the closing chapters. This book has everything a beginner needs to know about chess. It is concise and generously-illustrated. It retails for about $12 (and its ISBN number is: 0-340-67039-8).
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