After striking out on my own, I have a very strong WIFI connection, and this helped me to stream the 2014 World Chess Championship today. All the action is happening in Sochi, Russia. I’m not a soccer fan. My roommates have long been accustomed to me hiding in my room as they shout and scream for a full ninety minute match. What they don’t understand is how a sane man can sit in his room, avidly staring at a laptop screen featuring two grown men hunched over a board, doing nothing more than twitching and occasionally moving a piece from one square to another. Watching that for five minutes would be boring. Watching it for 4+ hours is a sure mark of insanity! Yet that is what I did today.
I have been playing chess since I was 12, when I stumbled on my neighbor playing the game after being sent on an errand by my mother. That fateful occurrence has proven to be a great contributor to what and whom I am today. It is chess that gave me the opportunity to fly out of the country, to experience life on another continent for two weeks. It is chess that gave me an excuse to wade through JKIA. I don’t remember it like it was yesterday, but my heart only has fond memories of flying in a metal tube for close to twelve hours. I remember sleeping on an airport seat in DOHA, Qatar, while waiting for a connecting flight to Vietnam in 2008. While sleeping in a five star hotel would have been an awesome experience, I preferred looking at people from all parts of the world, lugging suitcases as they frantically rushed to catch their next flights. I remember tasting lamb for the first time in my life. I had problems using a knife and a fork, and was sorely embarrassed. But I quickly adapted. Chess gave me that opportunity.
Chess has done more than just giving me a free tour. It has given me more than the chance to see that all human beings are all the same and equal under the sun, regardless of their skin. It has done more for me than simply removing the inferiority complex that had plagued me for most of my teenage years. I was in awe of anyone with a different skin color than mine. I thought, I believed, that they were better than me. I lost many games due to this. But this was quickly eliminated when I met people from other countries over the board and realized that they were just like me. There are times when I slide back into my old mentality, but the effects wear off in a matter of seconds. Understanding the role that our environment has on our thoughts, beliefs, opportunities and thinking capacity has gone a long way in helping me appreciate the fact that we can all achieve greatness, if exposed to optimum conditions.
Chess has made me a virtuoso in reverse engineering, especially when it comes to social relationships. I do not claim to be perfect at this. Whenever I face an opponent over the board, I put myself in their shoes and look at the position in their eyes. I try to see what they are seeing. I try to predict their thought patterns and attempt to decipher their understanding of the position on the board. I then use that information to craft my own response, anticipating their moves and coming up with contingencies in case they are on to me. My most enjoyable games have been with people of equal strength. Trying to outsmart each other on a board of 64 squares by moving pieces around sounds foolish, but it is incredibly intoxicating and very exciting.
This reverse engineering technique, coupled with an intuition that has continually been put to use, has been of great benefit to me when interacting with men and women from all walks of life. Men are easy to figure out, probably because there is no sexual tension to deal with. However, things get complicated very quickly when dealing with girls. Finding out what they want from you can be a daunting task that will leave your nerves frayed and your head throbbing. However, I have developed a system that allows me to steer clear of some who are up to no good.
It is not hard to notice them. It is the little things that count. The way they talk, the clothes they wear. Their closest friends (most girls I’ve met move in groups of three). Observing their friends will usually give me clues as to how the object of my attention thinks, and what she holds dear. It prevents me from making a fool of myself. I trust my intuition more with each successful read. Every time that I miss a bullet that would have hurt me, I am grateful for the tactics that chess has exposed me to.
I’m neither an evil villain, nor a spy in training. This game has taught me that all humans have unlimited wants and needs. And they always want something from you if they are engaging you. Knowing this gem of truth will help you know whom to smile and dine with, and whom to shy away from.
I love the clash of wills over the board. I love the fight for dominance. I love the lessons of planning, strategy and position control that are essential for victory in any sphere of life. I have also learnt that constant improvement is the only way to remain relevant, the same way that continually improving your position on the board is the best way of converting your advantages into the full point. When that beautiful girl walking past you does not acknowledge your existence, fear not. Read more, get exposure. Absorb knowledge, and those small increments will coalesce together in your brain and lead to wondrous results.
Chess has shown me that getting ahead in life is analogous to the growth of bamboo. At first, it seems like the plant is not growing at all. However, a closer inspection will reveal extensive growth of root networks beneath the ground. When this phase is over, the plant suddenly shoots out from the ground, growing at a terrific rate that appears shocking and awe-inspiring to all who observe it.
We must continually acquire small advantages, whether they are related or not. Continual improvement is the only way to assert our relevance in this world. And it also proves to be very effective in getting the attention of the fairer sex, regardless of what they might say. So, if nothing else has stuck on you, just remember that chess might help you get that girl you’ve been stalking on social media for the past two weeks!