It’s been a long time since anybody has wanted to play a game of chess with me, so I finally sold my good board and chessmen. Now, when I get in the mood for a game, I play the one on my computer. However, playing a solo game on the computer is disheartening for a couple of reasons. First, I very rarely win. Second, it’s difficult to develop a strategy without a human opponent.
The Microsoft chess program on my computer is cold and fast. I might spend a couple of minutes studying the board, trying to anticipate the computer’s move. I’ll finally move a piece. Instantly, the computer makes its move.
With a human opponent, I have the opportunity to observe him or her in the process of decision making. With the computer, this is not so. I can watch the eyes of my human opponent as they look at the pieces as he tries to anticipate my next move. Perhaps my opponent will touch one chessman, hesitate a few moments, then move a different one. This hesitation can tell me a lot about their mental processing and strategy.
Another good thing about playing another human being, is that there is often some post-game discussion. Each player can hash out why he or she won or lost the contest. This is another way of getting into the mind of another person.
It’s this one on one of playing chess, other board games, and contact sports that sharpens our skills at strategy. When a person plays a lot of chess, or other games, strategic skill learning becomes almost automatic. In other words, practice makes perfect.
Playing a game of chess or solitaire on the computer is more like playing random games of chance. Playing a game with other humans is a good way to develop strategic thinking. You might argue that there are electronic games of strategy available to buy or on the Web, but they don’t appeal to me. I suppose I could play chess on line, but I’d still miss the physical presence of a human adversary.
While looking over the paragraphs, above, I can see that I need to work on being more flexible in my preferences in game playing. This makes me more aware about other aspects of my personal strategic thinking.
This analysis leads me back to question my objectives as to why I want to play a satisfying game of chess. Do I want to become some sort of master player? No, not really. Just as regular workouts at the gym can benefit my physical strength, playing chess with another person strengthens my overall mental skills. One on one play also gets me out of my shell and enables satisfying social interaction with another person.
Playing person to person chess enhances mental perception and awareness. Observational skills are enhanced as I watch someone try to beat me at my own game. Observing someone else gives me insight about human behavior. More importantly, it’s a good way of keeping tabs on how I might be judgmental about myself and others. I can see how being judgmental reduces my effectiveness. During the game, I practice being non-judgmental. Being non-judgmental helps me respect other humans.
One on one game playing enhances my lifelong goal of learning and discovery. While taking time to mentally play with another person we both have the opportunity to learn from each other. You might say we develop the practice of forming feedback loops. This process of learning enhances creative thinking, too. In adjusting game strategy, on the fly, during the game, the ability to think creatively improves over time. So, while playing the game might enhance strategy, playing the game becomes part of the strategy.
An important part of strategic thinking and playing is that it can put a cap on egoism. During a game of chess, an effective player recaptures a sense of realism and honesty about one’s actual skill sets and one’s own set of behaviors. When I have a lofty opinion about myself, a satisfying game of chess brings me back down to Earth.
One of the best aspects of non-computer chess is that it strengthens the ability to be patient and to not rush into decisions and actions. While computer chess encourages me to make snap judgments and hurry through a game, live person to person play can be an organic act of learning how to get along better with other people on different levels.