The Open File
by Life Master Mike Petersen (Zug)
What is chess?
How many times have you had the discussion about whether chess was a sport or a science or maybe even an art? I know it has been discussed in multiple areas here at Chess.com. However, the question never seems to get resolved, no matter for how long or with whom you discuss it. As a matter of fact, I've noticed that the people who have played chess the longest always seem the least likely to have a definite opinion on the matter. I think I know why that is. I think it's because they've been exposed to so many facets of the game that they see a little of each of the facets in it. But what do I mean by facets? Press on, dear reader.
There have been many attempts to describe just what chess is. Fischer said, "Chess is my life." Lasker said simply, "Chess is a fight." This is undoubtedly true. But that seems too trite to me. How come it is that chess can be so relaxing, yet still be a fight? When did you last get into a fight you came away from feeling relaxed and satisfied? There's also an old saying that goes, "Chess is a sea in which elephants may bathe and gnats may drink." This is also true. You can play a blitz game for fun, or sit for hours trying to work out the intricacies of a rook and pawn ending. There is another old saying: "Chess, like love, has the power to make men happy." Also true. Then there is the simple description that chess is a game, nothing more, nothing less. However, I don't agree with that. So how is it that so many disparate statements can be descriptive of the game...and all be true at the same time? Well, that's what I mean by the different facets of the game.
Of course, it's no wonder we can't describe chess very well. We can't even get the most powerful computers in the world to play perfect chess. We don't know if, with best play, chess should be a win for white or a draw or anything. Lots of stories about chess have been built around just such a theme. It gives rise to another description of the game, that chess is a mystery. I don't think chess is a mystery, but sometimes it seems that way.
I'll tell you what I think chess is. It's a multi-faceted game that can only be described in that manner. In other words, different parts of the game can be described in different ways. My definition of chess is as follows:
* The STUDY of chess is a science.
* The PLAYING of chess is a struggle, a fight, a sport.
* The APPRECIATION of chess, of a nice combination for example, is what makes chess an art.
So, chess is a science, a fight, a sport, and an art form, all at the same time. It truly is a multi-faceted game.
Another thing. Anyone who doesn't see all the facets of the game can never appreciate it for what it really is. I feel sorry for those who don't take the time to study the game, for they miss the scientific portion. I feel sorry for those who no longer play, because they miss the sport of it. And I feel sorry for those who no longer go over the games of the grandmasters to appreciate the pure beauty of the game, because they miss the mystery of the game, the art of chess. However, I feel the most sorry for those who never learned the game.
For they have missed it all.
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