I’m the worst chess player in the world. No, really I am. To lose against me would be like tripping over a flea: well nigh impossible.
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The fact is, I quite enjoy a few rounds of chess, and I know all the rules. I can even understand the difference between a ‘pin’ and a ‘skewer’ and I usually open well, developing my pieces and attacking the centre of the board. But still I lose, and lose again. And again.
This does nothing for my ego, because my main opponent is currently a mobile phone. It has an onboard chess programme which I can’t beat for toffee. It knows a thing or two, ‘Phone’. I might start dating it soon.
I’ve begun to ascribe human foibles to this silicon instrument of humiliation. On a good day, I can back it into a corner and get it slightly worried. But mostly it creams me. Effortlessly. Phone even gives the impression of learning from its mistakes as it takes me down. If I attack it a certain way, it adapts. I’m sure it doesn’t have a brain. But I do, and that’s the problem.
I’m no longer certain that human beings are better than the machines which serve them. You see, all a chess computer does is play chess. Or not. Human beings rampage across the planet, tearing it to pieces. Apart from the Buddhists of course: they seem to have things sorted. Do Buddhists play chess? I have no idea.
This reminds me that chess is essentially a war game, and I’m not really geared up for that psychologically. I once played a completely passive game against Phone, letting it take my pieces and refusing to defend myself. It beat me, but seemed somehow confused. ‘I know how to lose,’ said I to Phone, ‘But all you can do is win.’ It’s cold comfort, but I hope to learn from my mistakes one day.
Playing chess reminds me that I’m horribly fallible, and that I don’t have all the answers. The fact that my opponent isn’t a person enhances this feeling. If I can’t see the next move, what can I see? What else am I missing? I have no idea.