It was a rainy day, the kind of drizzle that never stops, only sinks into your bones. It was entirely too cold to go out, not that I would have anyway. Not when there was an entire section of fantasy novels calling my name in the warmth of the school library and no commitments until the end of the lunch break.
The seats and table were wooden, with more than enough space to crack open a book and be absorbed in the story without too much discomfort. On the other side of the table was a slight distraction though.
A teacher and a student rolled out a mat of sixty four blue and white squares and then set up the board. I watched momentarily as they started playing the game of kings.
Ingrained into my psyche was a previous match. I had been at the top of my primary school academically and had foolishly thought this adapted itself to all manners of skills, chess included.
Facing off with one of my newer classmates, that was the first and only match that I was quite literally beaten in four moves. My memories lingered there as I watched the two of them play, slightly jealous, mildly self sabotaging, and somewhat interested.
Which leads me to where I am today.
I meant to write a lot more, I really did. But here comes the but…
For the last 10 years I’ve had a suspicion that if I got better at Chess, some of those skills might translate into helping me figure out complex story-lines for my fantasy novels and boost my critical analysis skills as an added bonus. Two years ago, that led me to an occasional lesson and puzzle but hardly more than that.
Well, fast forward to the COVID crisis we find ourselves in and one of my school mates getting wind that I was even borderline interested in playing.
Two months ago I had played somewhere between 2-8 games in 12 years. In the last two months I’ve played nearly 20 games and increased my puzzle rating by about 400 points.
Why does this matter to you? Why should this game matter to me?
First and foremost, it is me directly confronting the demons of my past. Yeah, I had hubris and I got knocked down, but that should have never stopped me from getting back into the ring and trying. I hate that I let it go for so long without looking into how to get better and how to be comfortable with losing as long as I was learning from those losses.
The type of attitude that I am cultivating right now is going to be a massive benefit to writing and career.
But again, why should this matter for you? Well, consider it a cautionary tale. If you get knocked down, you can crawl your way back out and keep marching forward. It also helps to have some friends who will push you along.
(And on another positive note for Chess, its nearly meditative state definitely helps me put all the grim news aside for a little while. Maybe that’d work for you, but if not, find something that does.)