Thursday, 11 July 2019

The Chess Terror

This post has been inspired by the current 'War' book I'm reading.

Add a 2h drive on winding roads and the acute necessity to think of something catchy in order not to make the person sitting next to me on the bus never ever want to have a Greek breakfast again and here it is... I will try to bring to life these (I hope) entertaining reflections.

The whole thing started with me deciding I am in need to go for a hike. Where else if not to Agia Irini's Gorge, right? But why walk (or rather crawl through) all those km?

There were about 2 days from the 'deciding' to the 'make it happen' point, days which proved to have a very demanding schedule... Sunbathing sessions were succeeded by the frappe drinking and the sea swims, being only interrupted from time to time by the usual chess player's 'praise yourself' thoughts after gaining 10 Elo points. It has started to develop into a dangerous situation. Wouldn't want to go for a swim and feel I'm Phelps or Poseidon in search of his trident... In order to reset the brain and come back to Earth I thought a physical demanding activity like a hike would be the perfect solution.

When the time came, I woke up at 6,30 am, had a good breakfast and went to catch the bus to Agia Irini's Gorge. 7,30 am- the bus started its engines and took off. My backpack thought it was time for the adventure to begin and flew directly into my neighbor's lap... A very friendly gaze landed on me, no matter of the "Sorry", "My fault" and all the "Signomi" I was trying to cover myself with... What a promising start! Twenty minutes later the bus driver started to show us his Formula 1 skills on mountain roads... Greek Yoghurt, Greek cookies, Greek coffee, Greek.... F***! I remembered instantly all I had for breakfast, cursing myself, the driver, the neighbor and everyone I could only think of! 7,50 am - it meant I had to bare it for one more hour... Well, "I must think of something so interesting that I would forget about my being sick", the brain suggested while trying to understand why it doesn't recall any Greek swearing, just to align it nicely with the yogurt and coffee...

My relationship with 'the brain' is quite tough, but it always throughs me a life vest in time of great need! This time was no exception. 

Aleppo, Sarajevo, Afghanistan, Congo... Will my computer suddenly shut down if I continue this line of thinking? Let's see...

What is it all about? I've been reading a book written by a surgeon who volunteered in war zones for decades. He was describing some of his most memorable experiences. The content is what one would expect it to be, with tears coming to the eyes on too many occasions. What is there to be added?

"Being a professional chess player is not much different than being in a war zone. It's being a soldier, a rebel, a martyr and a surgeon altogether" , the brain threw at me... What could I say to that? Hm... 

The soldier fights for an idea, for a belief. What does a chess player do? Quite the same, trying to prove again and again his idea or even enforce some concept. The sense of duty? We want to prove our families, coaches, friends that all they've done for us wasn't in vain, some willing to take their efforts to great lengths just not to let down 'the others'. The discipline? How else can one be a performer, win games and titles? Weapons? Openings, Endgames, Tactics, Engines, Strategy... The list can go on.

PTSD! Really? We constantly live with it, from tournament to tournament. You lose the last game, lose money, invitations… You go home and think of it over and over again, have nightmares about the winning position you ruined, about that opponent who took 'everything' away from you and think "what if"... Ask a player about his best win. He will name one or two. Ask him of his most painful loss and you'll hear a full list.

"Ok, I get it, I am a chess player, a soldier - a little Formula 1 driving can't take me down!". "Don't interrupt me, I am not done", the brain angrily answers to my bewilderment...

The rebel fights against a system. The Carlsbad, the Nimzo-Indian? He often is poorly armed but compensates with his great belief that he is fighting for the 'right' side. Haven't you ever played a game against a better prepared, higher rated opponent but had 'the feeling' that you're better anyway? How is that any different? The rebel throws self made bombs at his enemies. Novelties! He shoots from AK 47s. The looking straight into your opponent's eyes?

"You plan on taking down the driver or the neighbor perhaps... Whatever, just stop this nonsense!". "You stop the nonsense, and learn smth useful for once!" the brain commended.

The martyr sacrifices himself for a cause. He endures terrible pain or looking from the other side, he wears explosive vests to cause terror. A player continues playing for his team after 3 consecutive loses, after 5... How is that different from wearing the vest?   

"You want to take down the whole bus?"

The surgeon. "How is that any like being a chess player?". You shoot, throw grenades at your enemy. He's done, he surrenders. It's not enough though. The doctor removes the shrapnel from the wound and sews it accurately, he reattaches the limbs... He makes you believe it's all behind and you can move on, perhaps come to war again. After throwing novelties at your opponent, shooting him with your gaze and destroying him, you have to accurately sew his wounds, making him feel it was just a battle he lost and he has a chance in the next one. He must think it was your only weapon, the last novelty, he must fall into the trap again...

"Agia Irini's Gorge!!!!", the driver shout at us.