Thus, it is perhaps in my blood. It is quite an intellectual game and diversion and also an art that creates beauty and lasting pleasure. There is no other game or human diversion that reflects so well the vast range of encounters and situations of life as does chess. It reminds me of the famous Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the prince of the wise, who in a poignant mood exclaimed:
But helpless pieces of the game He plays
Upon the chequered board of nights and days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lies.
For Shakespeare, the entire world was a stage and all the people’s actors. For Omar Khayyam the world is a mere chessboard, the people chessmen, and God, the creator, the player. Do we not begin our life like chessman, equal in the closet; place the board of life to play our difficult roles as Pawns, Knights, Bishops, Rooks, Queens and Kings? Do we not become equal again in the sight of our Creator, as he returns us to the same closet at the end of the play? Death is the greatest leveler. It does not discriminate or it spares anyone.
Is there any other game, hobby or diversion as philosophical, intellectual and thoughtful as chess? No not at all. It is an ageless game and its hold over the human imagination and mind has been so great that sometimes real battles were won and lost while the players remained absorbed in their mock battle of pieces and pawns. Satyajit Ray’s film Shatranj Ke Khilari, was the only film I saw in a cinema house more than once, because of its excellent portrayal of the game of chess in such a trying situation.
The captive power of chess is really wonderful. For many a great man it has been their “mother tongue”. It is an abstract expression of the struggle and strife of life in general and is useful for studying complex and conflicting situations. It helps in developing decision-making skills and abilities. A chess player’s strength lies in clear, rational thinking, right approach, logic, knowledge and ability not to commit a mistake. His power of vision, vigilance, intuition and imagination are what make him stronger than others. A game of chess means leisure time spent creatively and purposefully. It activates the central nervous system and develops positive emotional reaction. It is good training for those engaged in challenging tasks and intellectual pursuits. A player of chess is required to make a decisive move in a very complex situation and that too under pressure of time and that is what is required from people in many challenging professions.
Chess players have been found to possess a higher spatial ability than others of comparable intelligence levels. They also possess greater physical endurance, together with tolerance of frustration. A game of chess is a manifestation of both the will to win and create beauty, with the player aiming to surmount all complexity, rigors and barriers to realise his plan and ideas. It appeals to me most because it involves, at every move, at each stage, intensiveness, enterprise, resourcefulness, self-control, determination, vision and the quick execution of the plan.
It is an epic game, with the chessboard being like a battlefield and the two sets of pieces the two contending armies, and the two rival players think in terms of attack, defence, capture, threats, man oeuvres, ambushes and tactics. The game is full of such activities which suggest a real and live combat. It is a game purely of Indian origin; a great tribute to Indian genius. In ancient India, it was known as Chaturanga, which means the four limbs or diversions of ancient Indian army: infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots. Those four divisions or limbs formed the army proper, flanking on either side of the king and his chief minister or mantri/vazir.