A Game of Critical Thinking and Social Skills: Chess

10:06 May 22, 2017
By: Keith John Paul Horcasitas
Pierre Espenan was a renaissance type of premed friend I knew back in the 1970s in New Orleans. We would see each other at the local coffee clubs we frequented back then. 
Besides possessing a lot of book knowledge that he could readily convey in simple terms, he was very artsy -- into music, poetry readings, and he could easily cite famous painters or sculptors and their works of art. 

At times, board championship games were held at these coffee houses - including Scrabble, Backgammon and Chess. On some special occasions, a master chess champion would play multiple games at once - like we used to see Bobby Fisher and others perform. 
Pierre was a very accomplished chess player who probably belonged to the Paul Morphy club that was in New Orleans named for the world famous player from the mid 1800s.

I have always been fascinated by the game of Chess. It took quite a while for my brother to get me to grasp the inner workings of strategy employed in the game. My friends and I would try to sharpen our skills usually on weekends at the coffee houses like the Penny Post on Danneel Street as we listened to good old fashioned folk music. 

Some of my buddies really excelled in the game and eventually, as we were in our later teen years, got to play against the computer based games that had come out, as well as the 3 dimensional types of boards that were developed. 

The Queen was usually a favorite piece for most folks as it was for me - since it had so many maneuvers that could be used. I couldn't stand it when I would inadvertently get mine jumped after I'd thought I'd made a great capture of a Bishop, a Rook or a Knight. The pawn just always seemed to get in the way when I would try to set up an attack on my opponent. 

I have been hearing commercials and posts on FB lately touting that one can increase intelligence per chess. While that may be exaggerating a bit, I can truly note that playing chess can expand your critical thinking skills. 
Chess does foster the use of prudence in decision making after one considers the many possibilities/strategies for winning in the game. These skills appear to transfer to many other aspects of our lives. 

Just getting someone into "Check" was such a thrill - to feel like you were about to win a match! Still it was very common for my opponents to have the strategy to pull me into that "Check" and then for them to be able to trounce me. Very few of my games ended in "Stalemate" or a drawn contest, wherein no one could win. 

Well one Saturday night at the Penny Post, Pierre was involved in a multiple game play - the likes of which I was always a spectator. He already had 11 contests going on but couldn't resist the chance to make it "cheaper by the dozen" when I asked if I could join in. Usually, he would win all of the matches. 

So as we were playing, I was making some progress but lost some dear pieces including my Queen, a Bishop and a Rook, as well as many Pawns. I couldn't believe how Pierre would quickly go from one match to the next without much deliberation and decimate all of us. 

Little was I prepared for my next move as I thought I was preparing to set up a "Check" on Pierre in the back right quadrant on his side. At the time, Pierre was threatening me sorely on the back left quadrant of my side, so I was getting ready for what appeared to be his final assault. In desperation, I moved a lowly Pawn up - taking a Bishop from Pierre to buy time with what I thought was just "Check" against him. 

Pierre then came back to our game and congratulated me on the decisive move by a Pawn that actually produced Checkmate! I hadn't realized that the pawn was being protected by my other Bishop, and Pierre's King had no other place to retreat! 

That is my only claim to fame with playing chess. Thanks to the game of Chess and Pierre for expanding my ability to think and to take on other insurmountable challenges in my life that have occurred. 
While Chess does not have as much current following as electronic games like Super Mario Run, Wii, etc., it will always be a great playful tool for learning on all levels of life - and help us have more needed face to face conversational encounters, that are so rare now with distracting hand-held devices!
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