For a month or so now, Sun Newspaper Editor Dennis Kaiser and I have played chess daily. Not a game a day, mind you, but a game that lasts a week to 10 days before one of us wins. Dennis usually wins. I confess this wounds my pride since I’m the more experienced player of the two of us. However, Dennis has a significant advantage over me.

No, I don’t mean the fact that he’s my boss. I grant you that playing a competitive game with your boss outside the workplace—or inside it—can be a risky venture. I wouldn’t play the game if I thought for a moment he was a vindictive fellow. I’ve met vindictive people in my time. I try as best I can to avoid them. Besides, I wouldn’t rent a room to a vindictive person. (Yes, I’m my boss’s landlord. No, I am not under psychiatric care.)

No, Dennis has the advantage of knowing me too well. The thing about chess that people don’t realize is that the game is played as much in your head as on the board. Dennis and I met in January 1986 and after a quarter of a century, Dennis has learned to put himself inside my head. I never quite got that knack.

Incidentally, if you want to master politics I strongly urge you to take up the game. Chess is one of the few games that you can apply to real life. When I cover political issues, I try to look at the contest as a chess contest. I try to see what each side’s moves tell me about their plans and the wisdom of the political leadership. It’s a useful way of looking at an emotionally-charged issue, if only because it allows you to detach from your feelings and focus on what’s actually happening.

But, getting back to my chess games against Dennis Kaiser, I’m not so sure Dennis is defeating me as much as I’m defeating myself. He plays a cautious game. I, on the other hand, tend to be hyper-focused on my immediate goals and when I’m winning hyper-confident. That can lead you into thinking you can’t lose. If nothing else, the chess games have taught me that if you think you can’t lose, you’re at high risk to lose.

It also doesn’t help that Dennis plays a maddeningly slow game. He will literally take 24 hours to make a single move. I like to make a move as soon as possible after my adversary has made a move. Dennis hates risk, at least on the board. I’ll take risks—knowing full well they may cost mere dearly. I take the risks because if they pay off, I can devastate the other player. Since I don’t know anyone else willing to play at all, I’m stuck with an opponent whose pace drives me insane.

However, I’ve devised a plan. I’ve started reading books by chess masters—men who’ve actually earned money playing chess professionally. (The opportunities for earning a living in chess are actually worse than the opportunities in journalism, but they do exist.) I’m taking fewer risks and planning my chess attacks with greater care. This last game out, I had my first eight moves planned before the game started. Dennis is predicting defeat before he’s lost. Between us, he could use his knights more aggressively. They’ve been sitting on the sidelines doing nothing.

Unless Dennis pulls a rabbit out of his hat—and he might—I think I’ll win this game. Of course, that hardly matters. The only thing we’re playing for is a fleeting feeling of pride—followed by another game.


no comment until now

Add your comment now