Saturday, November 15, 2014

The game continues ...

*** Fall 1974 ***


Mr. Troxel was a new teacher to our small school in Somis.  He was likely relatively young as far as teachers go, but as a 9 year old anything over 20 was old, and over 30 was very old.

One day we came into class and another man was at the chalkboard ... a tall man with glasses wearing a long sleeve white shirt and a red and blue diagonally striped tie ... the blue stripes much thinner than the red.

Mr. Seaman ... his name was written on the corner of the board with a chalk drawn frame around it, but still he introduced himself.  As he talked a little about why he was in the class my mind wandered to different images of "Seaman" ... cartoonish men in old fashioned diving suits with bubbles rising in the water above them ... a ship with sailors and a man wearing an old fashioned admiral's hat.

But I was forced back to reality when he asked us to pull out our spelling books.  "Make sure you show me you completed your work before putting the books away."

It was spelling ... ten minutes and I was done.  I took my book to his desk at the back of the class.  He was surprised that I was finished.  The work was sloppy, but it was done.

"Can I play chess?" I asked.  "While everyone else finishes?"

He smiled.  "You play chess?  I was on my college chess team.  Do you want to play me?"

"Okay."  I put my spelling book away and set up the board.  By this time a few others were finishing the assignment and Mr. Seaman was checking their work.



Most of my classmates would read a book or color while the rest of the class finished.  A few realized that the teacher and I were already starting a game and they stayed to watch.  To me there was nothing special about the game ... I just liked playing.  In hindsight I know that Mr. Seaman was likely distracted by paying attention to the class and checking all the spelling books ... and it was also obvious that he was not taking a 9 year old kid too seriously.  In a somewhat joking voice he told the class that if I beat him that he would let us spend an extra five minutes outside for recess.

More kids gathered.

His expression began to change when he realized I had moved my knights into a very  strategic position.  I can't remember every move, and won't bore you with the sequence I do remember ... I will just say that he knew he was in big trouble and tried a very aggressive move exposing his queen when I put him in check mate.

He was shocked ... I was not.  It was just another win to me.

In the week he was there we played many games.  I won several and he won several, but the win / loss record is not as important as the fact that we gained a respect for each other that others likely did not understand.

*****

Sometimes we don't realize what an accomplishment is until some time has passed.  Even then we don't always appreciate what we've done nor will we likely consider what we did as an accomplishment.

Accomplishment - something achieved or successfully completed.


The achievement of playing chess with Mr. Seaman was not the fact that I beat a man on a college chess team.  The accomplishment was gaining a bit of self confidence ... discovering that I have my own talents ... earning a little respect.

I always focus on my shortcomings ... No, I'm not going to go down the list.  I talk about them too much.  I want to learn to see the accomplishments ... what I have achieved even if it was not exactly what I wanted ... even if I fall short of my goal.

In chess you have the ultimate goal of putting your opponent into checkmate ... but you also must defend against being defeated.

But there is more ... much more.

Each player has 16 pieces to defend ... to attack with ... to use as bait ... to sacrifice for the bigger cause.  Each piece has its own abilities ... their own personalities.  They each play a significant role in the game, and you must be aware of all 16 of your pieces as well as the 16 your counterpart controls.

There is no such thing as a perfect victory.

You always lose pieces.

The best you can hope for is to make each move in whatever means moves you toward your goal.  When you lose a piece ... when you fall into a trap you continue.  You must continue.  You count your losses and continue to make moves.

Every move has its rewards and its risks.  Every strategy is a goal within the bigger task.  Knowing how to adjust when things are not going well is what makes the difference.

Sometimes you win ... sometimes you lose.

Each goal I set ... every achievement I strive for is its own chess game.  I make my moves ... I make my adjustments ... I try and win.

Far too often, when I don't complete my goal, I dwell on the fact that the end result is not what I planned.  I forget that along the way I had many different accomplishments even if the game did not go my way.

When a game of chess is over you set up the pieces and play another game.

As Isaac Asimov once said - In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.