“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
~ Mother Teresa
My father introduced my siblings and I to chess when we were little. I remember watching him play with his adult friends, as well as with up and coming youngsters who would only last a few minutes with him. I played for fun for many years and knew the basics of the game such as the correct movement of the pieces, good and bad openings, and most importantly how to check mate. Then for some reason, I stopped playing the game, probably told myself that it required a lot of time and dedication.
The other day while visiting my dad, he offered me a chess book called “An Invitation to Chess”. I gladly accepted, being in quarantine and all, I thought revisiting the game may do me good in solitude. Even if the book seemed geared to beginners, I could skip those first chapters, since I was familiar with the basics…or so I thought.
When reading the first chapters, the authors explain how chess pieces move. They mention “the Pawn, unlike other pieces, does not capture as it moves.” It turns out, the Pawn moves straight forward, but captures other pieces diagonally. Huh? I thought, that seemed odd. I did the movements in my head, since I don’t have a chess board yet, and lo and behold, it was true! It was fun to read other tidbits about this fascinating piece, like how it can arbitrarily advance two spaces on its first move, but only one afterwards.
Why had I never given the Pawn much thought until now? Compared to it, all the other pieces have Chess super powers. The Rook moves straight forward in all directions, from one side of the board to another. The Bishop moves diagonally in all directions as well, the Knight jumps over other pieces, The Queen combines the movement of Rook and Bishop, and of course, the game ends when the King is captured. But with the previous mentioned exceptions, the Pawn moves in one direction, one space at a time. Boring!
Besides having basic range of motion, the Pawn is also the most common of all board pieces. There is only one King and one Queen, two each of Bishops, Knights and Rooks, but there are EIGHT Pawns. The most expendable of all pieces! This is one definition for it: “a chess piece of the smallest size and value.” But looking back at the game itself after so many years, I realized that this soldier piece was not so basic after all. Many a game has been decided by a sole Pawn being left alone during the game, and eventually cornering and check mating the King.
I realized that when I used to play chess as a child, I would move the pieces in the correct way, but I did not know why I did it. Once I started playing the game, I concentrated on strategy and had stored it in the automatic part of my brain, where riding bicycles also resides. Reading about the movement of this lowly and expendable chess piece years later gave me the insight that maybe there are other aspects of my life that I thought I knew well, but maybe there were nuances about it. When I read books or take walks, for example, I often day dream and then later wonder about missing information or experiences.
This may be what “being in the moment” really means but applied to everyday tasks. As I gather to revisit my old friend Chess (yes, I will find a board and finish the book), not only I gained a deeper appreciation for the game and for the idea that all pieces have value, but I realized that ever so often we should revisit our long-held beliefs and examine them in detail. We may have missed nuances that were present all along, but we were too busy then. Well, we have plenty of time now.