I like to play chess. Unfortunately for me, I lose more often than I win.
In an effort to improve my win:loss ratio, I’ve tried to analyze my lack of success, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my losing streak is not due to a lack of awareness of the names of the chess pieces; I know a rook from a bishop, a pawn from a King. I understand their movement; up / down, back / forth, and that L-shaped thingy the horsey does. I even have a rudimentary knowledge of strategy; for instance, you should always try to win if possible.
However, as I’ve read and studied my technique (or lack thereof), I’ve come to understand that I’m missing a few key ingredients to becoming a successful chess champion. They were revelations to me but might come as no shock to you.
- Intelligence. The world’s best chess players are very smart. While there has been some debate on this point over the years, it is clear that highly analytical minds do very well playing chess. They can see the complexity of the board, the possible moves, the outcomes, the trade-offs. Critical thinkers have a clear advantage over those who are simple minded.
- Practice. Expert chess players have invested upwards of 10,000 hours moving pieces around the board, playing others who are as good or better than themselves. They don’t just play to win, they play to learn. In so doing, they have built a wealth of experience. They’ve lost pieces and practiced strategies. In the process, they’ve found effective methods for moving to a successful conclusion.
- A Plan. I’ve been told that a great chess player can see the entire board and can plan up to 20 moves ahead. That means for each possible move their opponent makes, they can have a wide variety of responses cued up and ready. Each planned move taking them closer to a win. No move is random. They aren’t making a knee jerk reaction to another player’s move. Every move is calculated and strategic with an end-game in mind.
If you have read any of this blog (and I encourage you to do so), you know that we aren’t spending a lot of time discussing gaming strategies. Rather, the focus is on the chaos of the world and how to find resolutions. We’re considering the plight of the underprivileged. We’re brokenhearted by human trafficking, the devastating migratory patterns and refugee status of African citizens. We abhor the racial divide that faces this world and especially here in the states. We are looking for hope. We are looking for solutions. We desire a big win.
But let’s be honest. At times, it feels like a losing game. Doesn’t it?
When men kill men, driven by hatred and extreme belief systems, we are losing the game.
When our leaders spend more time talking about building a wall and banning travel because of location or religion (take your pick) rather than the power and importance of educating our children, feeding our citizens, or providing healing to the broken, it’s checkmate.
When our government cuts billions of dollars for healthcare and supportive services in place of increased military spending, when they fail to care for the planet in favor of manufacturing, when they fail to understand that we are one global family and the “America First” attitude only leads to more isolation, violence, and division. It’s game over.
If the game of chess is any guidance, it obvious that we need smart people at the table. We need the best this world has to offer, not military thugs or self-absorbed narcissists. We need practiced, experienced people helping think through the multitude of options. If history repeats itself, it would be helpful to involve some people with an in-depth knowledge of history, the pitfalls of certain moves, the destructive results of certain actions.
We need people who have a plan, who can think a few moves ahead…because right now it feels as if there is no plan. It’s as if we have never played the game before. It’s as if there is not one intelligent player left at the table.
And if that is truly the case, in the end, we all lose.