I looked up at my opponent over the maple and mahogany battlefield covered with kings, queens, and knights after half an hour of silent contemplation. Fallen soldiers – discarded in the heat of battle – were strewn across the sides of the table. Staring back at me was the most experience strategist in my home state – a man who had dedicated his very life to a war whose culminating battle was unfolding before me. I glanced at the board one more time, searching for an escape, but my valiant warriors were too ensnared to retreat.
I first fell in love with the game of chess when I was ten; my Egyptian grandfather offered to teach me the game when the incessant rain imprisoned us indoors for most of his two week visit. I accepted his offer only to be polite – I had seen plenty of others stooping over their chess sets for hours on end, and I had no interest in wasting my time with something I deemed so boring.
My interest, however, skyrocketed from the moment we began our first game. As an inexperienced player, I had no idea how to coordinate my pieces, and I could only watch in horror as my grandfather overran my defenses and crushed me within twenty moves. Naturally competitive, I asked for a rematch, then for another. Grandpa always graciously accepted, and in the days that followed, we must have played more than 100 games of chess. With each game, I gained a little understanding, but despite my best efforts, I didn’t win a single one.
Before returning to Egypt, my grandfather instilled a dream in me with his parting words. “Give it everything, and you will triumph.”In the past seven years, I have tried to do just that. After bidding my grandfather farewell, I stopped at an airport gift shop and purchased a beginner’s chess manual that outlined the basic strategies of the game.
That evening – and many evenings thereafter – I spent hours poring over that book. Later, I amassed more than thirty chess books specific to many different aspects of the game – opening advances, middlegame tactics, endgame strategies – and devoured them all with enthusiasm. As my love for the game increased, I joined numerous online chess servers, and when they didn’t satiate my enormous appetite for the game, I founded a chess club at a local community college and entered numerous statewide chess tournaments. I improved rapidly.
For me, chess is more than a game; it’s a philosophy. If chess has taught me one thing, it’s that persistence pays off in the end. Victory at the board has been dependent upon my adroitness at analyzing complicated positions for hours on end; success in the real world remains contingent on my ability to plan ahead and think in the long term. Only by painstaking considering the consequences of every move I made, on and off of the board, had I attained my position before the strongest player in the state.
I looked back up at my opponent. Offering my hand with a smile, I broke the silence. “I can’t find a breakthrough. Draw?” “Draw,” he agreed. “Good game. “That’s another thing I’ve learned from chess. In life, you can’t always win, but if you give it your all, you can turn every endeavor you undertake into a success.”Good game,” I responded. “Good game.”