It’s Christmas time and my ten year old grandson wanted to try chess moves out on me. He has a math teacher at school that he plays with, often successfully. He also beats his mother/my daughter. I told him, “I can tell in five moves if you’ll beat me or I’ll beat you.” He didn’t believe me. He made a move and I said, “I won.” After a little training, he began to get it, to understand how control of the center of the board and timely development of pieces made the game develop toward a win. Nobody ever explained chess to him in a way that would allow him to ‘see the win’. 
Chess allows for other discussion of things that are the same, and not the same.

Q – “So…what did you do in the war, grandpa?”

A – “It depended on the war. Generally, put ordinance on target.”

Q – “What does that mean?”

A – “Blew people up, blew things with people in them up, that sort of thing.”

Q – “Did you ever blow something up without people in it?”

A – “Sometimes.” (I thought of an oil refinery in the third world that blew up accidentally many years ago, crippling their economy – it might have been empty.)
“Sometimes I just trained people to blow things up and let them do the dirty work. Occasionally shined a laser on something that directed a very large bomb to fly there and blow it up. Other times, I simply planned to blow things up and left the details to operators in the field. Occasionally kidnapped people and brought them in alive, sometimes spoke to people that other people kidnapped. They’re called ‘direct action missions’.”
Q – “Do you play chess often.”
A – “No, not often, but I like to play. Sometimes life is a lot more like chess than people want to believe. It’s not uncommon to find that while I’m playing chess, they’re playing checkers.”
Q – “What does that mean?”
A – “I win.”
Q – “Do you ever lose at chess?”
A – “Not often. And when it comes to the Great Game, and the strength of tradecraft, losing at chess means a mouth full of dirt.”
Q – “I can see why you don’t like to lose.” 
Today is my birthday.
Q – “How old are you today?”
A – I told him.
Q – “Wow that’s old.”
A – “I didn’t get to be this old by being bad at chess.”


  1. Happy birthday, Larry! May you enjoy many more. Winning at the game of life means getting to enjoy the grandkids


  2. Congratulations on another trip around the sun.

    My father never let his children win, at anything, ever. Plus, he was a bad loser. We played chess. He would lose, curse in English and Hindu,and kick the chess table over. Then I would be a gracious winner which pissed him off even more.

  3. Congrats!

    Speaking of chess, looks like the Kenyans are about to lose a port to the Celestial Kingdom.

    How happy they'll be under the benevolent yoke of their yellow mandarins.

  4. I never "let them win", but I try and teach them to win. Nothing makes me happier than to see them best me. I had all girls, so they grew up hanging out with mercenaries, SPECOPS types, cops, etc. who loved seeing them out shoot me at this or that.

    In the case of my grandson, he needs to learn to play well. So when he moves poorly, I explain the cause and effect and offer him a do-over.

  5. Kenya, homeland of the Obama Klan, screwed up when they invited the British to leave. They're changing a benevolent master for one with a different agenda.

  6. I started playing chess in grade school.
    It taught me to control my anger and to not make rash moves to seek revenge when I lost a man.
    I could not get a game by eighth grade.
    I once unintentionally left my queen exposed and my opponent refused to take it because he was sure I was setting him up for some unseen grande coupe.
    I joined the chess club in high school.
    They only person I could not regularly beat went on to get an MD, but decided he did not have the warm and fuzzies that would allow him to get past the odiferous part of cleaning out a ruptured appendixes, so he got a degree in nuclear physics and then decided that he was not all that interested after he heard the joke: "Nuclear physicists have three children. One of each."
    So, he, Tom, joined the FBI and spent three years in Locherbie, Scotland investigating an airplane that exploded shortly after takeoff. You might have heard about that bit of Iranian foreign diplomacy.
    Back in high school at chess club we had a new member, Professor Bicanic. He taught French, but he spoke six other languages. He had escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in Eastern Europe during WWII. Next he got out of Prague in 1948 ahead of the Communists. How he ended up in our little school whose county seal includes a Hereford bull is a mystery.
    I was observing his first match as a new member of the chess club. He was playing my nemesis, Tom the Eagle Scout. After several minutes of play Professor Bicanic announced to Tom that it was mate in four moves. He then set the board up as it had been seven moves prior to his impending mate announcement and said this is where you made your mistake and proceeded to walk us through the correct moves FROM SEVEN MOVES AGO.
    I have to win. I cannot play for "fun." I could not see that I would ever reach that level of proficiency. I could play six moves ahead, but the Professor could not only many moves ahead, but remember seven moves back. This was fourth generation warfare. I lost the will to fight.
    I have only played twice since then. I won, but there wa no joy.
    Chess is good training for a youngster's mind. Poker gives you an insight into a person's character.
    I am thinking hard about starting Go.

  7. I wonder how long it will be before your grandson realizes he got more than a lesson in chess that day.

    Good story.

  8. waepnedmann: My chess journey began in high school too. Unfortunately, I didn't have a professor to mentor me, so I resorted to books, and settled on Paul Morphy, and through the pages, I saw real genius in his moves. I won a regional chess championship before I graduated from HS, and since then I've played a little here and there. I don't take any particular joy in a win. To me, it's one of those things that helps me focus. Six or seven moves ahead is necessary to be proficient in chess. Those who are 'good' are like your professor and I never rose to that class…which is almost inhuman. Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. Fianchetto is a term I have not heard in a long time. It is very typical of clerics, sliding along the diagonals. (No, not you, LSP)

  10. He's a very clever boy. But usually, the metaphor is lost, and people need to find out by peeing on the electric fence for themselves.

    I was the recipient of good advice, and didn't take it nearly as often as would have been ideal.

  11. I'm more of a checkers player… especially when I was dating. When she made a move, I'd jump her. Seriously, I could never master the game of chess. Never had any lessons, just playing with other doofuses. But playing games with the grandson is a great way to enjoy your birthday.

  12. I was never able to understand chess.
    But I am glad you are teaching him to win; though that is no surprise.
    A belated Happy Birthday!

    Blowing things up. Made me think of a TV show called Mythbusters for some reason..

  13. I think you misunderstood.
    I realized my limitations and knew I could not excel at chess, so I stopped playing.
    I did not have the IQ to be other than mediocre at chess.
    No joy in mediocrity, but a teaching opportunity as you had with your grandson does give me reason to to consider playing for other reasons than to win.
    Thanks for a different perspective and Happy Birthday.
    Glad to have you around.

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