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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Integrity Bump

Yesterday I did something I had been proud of never doing in all the games I have played against B., who has been coming here nearly every Tuesday to play chess while his Pick's Disease-afflicted wife goes walking with my wife. By now we must've played close to a hundred games, of which we have had two draws and I have won all the rest. I take absolutely no credit for that. It's no reflection on my skill as a player. Instead it's all a matter of his skill, or more correctly, his lack of it, though that lack is far from total.

But yesterday for the very first time during those sessions, having vowed to always play "touch-move" regardless of what he did, I violated that pledge that I had made to myself, while wondering why all this time I had never come close to having it tested -- we all go to sleep sooner or later -- and I took back a move.

One second after I put my Knight on that fatal square and drew back my hand, I saw that there was nothing protecting it there, and that B. could not only take it for free, but also that capture would suddenly leave my once-promising position in a total shambles. So, intensely embarrassed, I blurted out, "That's not what I wanted to do," and I instantly pulled back the Knight.

Upon which B., a man who takes back several moves per game, startled chortling and said, "All right! I won't tell anybody you did that! I promise."

I then studied the position for several minutes while trying to decide to let my blunder be, in not only the hope but also in the near certainty that B. would mess up badly later on, and I would win anyway.

But I had only slept three hours the previous night, and I had been hard at work on my "Iris Window Project" all day, which involves standing up all the time, and I was tired and sleepy, and I didn't feel like going through all that waiting for my chance, win or lose.

Quite often, when you make a blunder like that, there is still some compensation that can still make things interesting. But I could find absolutely none of that here. Instead my position would suddenly have been left without any prospects at all, and that was extremely disheartening. And anyway, did I really want to play on only while waiting for him to make his inevitable later mistakes, because for some reason he plays the endgame worse than he does all the earlier stages of a game when there are more pieces on the board.

And besides, till then we had been waging an interesting positional struggle, in which I thought I had good prospects of seeing my efforts pay off at last, and I badly wanted to see how that was going to come out.

So I swallowed my embarrassment and let my takeback stand, and I played a different move, with the vow, however, that as soon as I had won so little as one little Pawn while also retaining a good position, I would offer B. a draw, which he would gladly take as a victory that he could crow about to his daughter and his brother-in-law, who seem to be keeping tabs on how he's been faring in these games, because they think that by now he should have won at least one game. I mean how difficult can that be? Don't both sides start out with identical armies?

Actually it can be unbearably difficult if one person has a lifelong deep respect for the game, while for the other playing chess is just something to do while he gets his wife off his hands long enough for her to take a walk, because dealing with such a situation 24 hours a day, month in and month out, is very difficult indeed

And that draw, which I offered him as soon as I had won a Pawn with a great position besides, was exactly how that game turned out.

My wife was very happy about that, because she has long thought that I shouldn't be so avid about playing to win. But that goes against all my chess instincts, hard-wired into my cranium decades ago, and also I think B. should just take his lumps regardless, because of the fact that he makes no effort whatsoever to improve his play, by such means as (gulp!) merely reading a chess book. By my codes of conduct that is an absolute crime, with no extenuating circumstances, not even a wife with a disorder in the forward lobes of her brain. Besides, she, whose name also begins with a "B," remains happy and content with everything, win or lose, rain or shine, and the Alzheimer's-like Pick's Disease is not taking her down nearly as fast as it could.


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