The Soul of Chess: A Brief Philosophical Disection

Apr 7, 2009, 8:27 AM |

I was discussing chess with my girlfriend tonight...well, I was going on a rant about what I liked about it, and she in her patience smiled and nodded until I was gasping for air. But in that rant, I summarized to her quite clearly what I liked about chess in a way that was both esoteric and in a non-chessplayer-friendly way.

Basically, I said to her that what I liked about chess was what you don't see. The subtle stlyes, the philosophies behind the moves that are grossly oversimplified by their mere notation - Like when you ponder a move, and you imagine the other choices you might make, and what your opponent might respond with, and you measure the potential change in the dynamics of the board...All that stuff is equally real, in fact, it is the driving force behind whatever move you make. THAT is chess. It's all Threats and Objectives. The bulk of chess remains unseen, ephemeral, the world of 'what if's' and 'could've beens'.

This fact is evident when, say, a beginner and a master both look at a particular position; they 'see' the same thing, but only on the physical level. They are actually on two different planes.

So really, when you become good at chess, and are familiar with all those delectable nuggets, like zugzwangs, and pins, forced mates and zwichenzugs, you begin to see this amazingly complex, mathematic, chaotic and to some degree, beautiful element which is the soul of chess, trapped in its physical body, much like us.