A Beautiful Death

A Beautiful Death

Aug 31, 2008, 9:56 PM |
Despite what my blog may have you believe, Chess is not all glory. Laughing  For every game that you win, there is usually one that is lost. And let me remind you of something: losing at Chess is not at all like losing at any other game. As Vladamir Nabokov once remarked, “As in no other game, or even mode of combat, defeat at chess tracks the ego to its final lair."

What makes defeat in the Royal Game so different? Foremost, I would say the absence of luck. In Chess, one cannot simply blame your defeat on a bad roll of the dice, or upon being dealt a poor hand of cards. If you lose at Chess, it is simply because your opponent out-thought you and not because of some uncontrollable random factor. His plan was better; yours was inferior. It is this manifest demonstration of cognitive inferiority that makes any loss truly sting the ego.

Of course, then there are the mental whippings that inevitably follow such a loss. Again, Nobokov:

“The aftermath is abjection, a corrosive humiliation that drags over one whenever the position is recalled and reanalyzed. Hours after play has ended, one wakes to find the night buzzing with jeering forms. The right move was so terribly near, so glaring in its urgent obviousness. Every kibitzer and blind tyro in the room must have seen it. Now it claws at one's skull.”

H. G. Wells also had this to say about defeat over the chessboard:

“No chess-player sleeps well. After the painful strategy of the day one fights one's battles over again. You see with more than daylight clearness that it was the Rook you should have moved, and not the Knight. No! It is impossible! No common sinner innocent of chess knows these lower deeps of remorse. Vast desert boards lie for the chess-player beyond the gates of horn. Stalwart Rooks ram headlong at one, Knights hop sidelong, one's Pawns are all tied, and a mate hangs threatening and never descends. And once chess has been begun in the proper way, it is flesh of your flesh, bone of your bone; you are sold, and the bargain is sealed, and the evil spirit hath entered in.”

Having said all that, occasionally a loss doesn’t sting so much because you have to admire the skill of your opponent. One such case follows. This was a second game played between myself and ‘KwisatzHaderach’. I took the first victory, but my erstwhile opponent would live up to his moniker and take the second with some masterful endgame play:

If I have to lose, let it be the result of such a beautiful death.