The Wisdom of Chess

It’s become a daily thing—sometimes more than once a day. I haven’t come close to mastering it, and I lose most of the time, but playing chess is a great way to keep our aging brain cells limber. It’s strategic, quiet, and, in my case, a mountain to be conquered.

I start the game with a reminder to myself to pay attention: “Don’t lose your queen.”

On the all-too-frequent occasions when I lose concentration, or my husband sets up a strategy from which I can’t escape, the loss of my most powerful piece doesn’t bring out the best in me.

“Argh,” I groan, sometimes slapping my hand down on the table in frustration.

This day, however, with great satisfaction, I capture my husband’s queen and his response is different.

”Well done,” he says.

I wonder, not for the first time, about the kind of parenting that produced a kid, now a man, who says “well done” when his queen is captured. I think of my gentle, encouraging father-in-love, and it makes perfect sense.

There’s something about Gerry’s words that makes me want to do better—in the way I play the game, and in the way I respond to defeat. In the way I respond to everything, really.

This is great truth. Kindness matters. Encouragement changes people. Winning isn’t the most important thing. The most important lessons, the things that alter our perspective and our life, are quiet and simple things we miss when we think we know it all.

The game continues. I rack up another loss despite the capture of my husband’s queen, but I come away from the chess board richer.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. When my 8-year-old grandson was teaching me how to play chess, he had his hand playing “solitaire” on a checker board near by because I was so slow.

    1. Ha! I love it! And I understand. 🙂

  2. My son tried to teach me chess. He did, but I was never one to “get into it” like he did. He’s the strategist. I am not. I like easy games with words – like Scrabble. I don’t like games that I have to think 5 moves ahead.

    1. It’s interesting to me how poor I am at chess. I was a computer programmer (don’t think they’re called that anymore!) for years and lived in the world of logic and if-then-else. It seems those skills would translate to chess strategy, but it seems not. We like all kinds of games around here, but Scrabble is off limits. We played one game, not long after we were married, and I vowed to never play with Gerry again. He’s got some dyslexia and makes words up! A crime, in the eyes of this wordy girl!

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