Although board games may appear to be merely a means of recreation and a trivial factor of American culture, they actually represent much more. One specific game worthy of study is chess, which serves a much more fundamental purpose than that for which it is generally given credit. Chess not only has historically formed one of the chief means employed by societies to draw its collective bonds closer, but it also conveys many truths of politics and gamesmanship, while shining a light on economic solutions as well as foreign relations.
In Making Your Move: The Educational Significance of the American Board Game, 1832 to 1904, by David Wallace Adams and Victor Edmonds, there is given a preliminary explanation of how board games, in a general sense, have the capability of bringing to the surface social mores. One such more demonstrated in the game of chess involves traditional protestant values such as hard work, piety, frugality, and perseverance, then success was just around the corner (Adams and Edmonds 363). Chess, unlike many games, stresses such qualities as perseverance and frugality.
It is not essentially a game won with bold, romantic moves in the opening, but rather with careful patience in the end game. Chess involves calculation and hard work, but these must be courted by a sense of inherent piety and understanding. Much like in the intricate process of volleying to get ahead in American society, chess can not be won in the opening, but it can be lost. Classic openings such as the Ruy Lopez, the King s Gambit, the Sicilian Defense, the Caro Kann opening, and the Scotch Game all are opening sequences that encompass a careful guardianship of the center squares.
Although the object of the game is to checkmate the king, it is first mandatory to acquire board position that allows this end result to be possible. This sort of strategy, which is common among excellent chess players, is analogous to the type of societal pressures that encourage individuals to become educated, most specifically through higher education, before attempting to attain the end result of making money. In the game of chess, you know your destination, but by thinking about it constantly, you re doomed. The task at hand is the means by which the player must focus and, hence, position himself to gain the victory (Nimzovitch 122).
This quote by 19th grandmaster Aron Nimzovitch summarizes the situational irony of chess that is prevalent in our society–that the task at hand is essentially more worthy of consideration than the overall destination. However, this is not to say that the end which is the target of the means is to be forgotten. If a player gets too caught up in position, he is likely to not spot opportunities for checkmate. He then defeats his purpose, much like someone overly concerned with making money and does not recognize its inherent function as a means to happiness.
Chess also provides an arena of attack that is quite similar to the economic phenomena known as the Nash equilibrium, named after economist John Nash, who was a leading scholar in game theory. This economic theorem is especially prevalent with minimal market participants, such as in an oligopoly. In a Nash equilibrium, there is an initial equilibrium that is broken first by one party seeking to advance its placement and is then countered by the opposing party, such as in the possible circumstance of quantity of production.
In such an occurrence, both sides are weakened because the price is lowered and the quantity produced is more efficient. In chess, such an equilibrium is generally found in the middle game, in which an equilibrium in guarded pieces can be broken through an exchange, after which each side has mutually become weaker. If a player gains a reputation for exchanging queens in a game, an especially weakening example of such an equilibrium, this can certainly affect a person s reputation, which can have dramatic effects on the opponent s strategy.
Banking on a player to play consistently on reputation is essentially incorporating a large margin of chance into an equation which can operate more efficiently without such an incorporation. However, according to Adams and Edmonds, it is a natural human tendency to incorporate chance because society, as a whole, will strive in all ways to find ways to ameliorate positioning, and chess players are not exempt from such a desire. Beneath the surface of optimism one finds that a steady undertone of desperation resounded beneath the scattered cries of lucky triumph (Adams and Edmonds 366).
Despite the fact that chess need not heed to the improvision of chance and luck, these qualities are likely the ones people fallaciously accredit for their successes in chess and in society. Another societal truth revealed in the game of chess is the intrinsic nature of a good versus evil relationship of forces, which is demonstrated in the white versus black setup of the chess game. Neither white nor black necessarily signifies a different role in the game of chess in the actual course of the game, although players have always entered games with a frame of reference granting goodness to white and evil to black.
The purity granted to white, and thus his mission, can be seen as mirroring the mission of a religiously pure citizen in the 19th century, according to Adams and Edmonds. The character of life in the nineteenth century America rarely challenged the reliability of rigid moral rules or the easy equation of virtue and reward…The relative simplicity of social organization allowed men to perate in the various spheres of community life without any significant sense of ethical disjunciton; every area of daily endeavor–the home, the school, the church, job–rewarded the familiar virtues in roughly similar proportions (Adams and Edmonds 366).
This role for the 19th century Christian, to acquire fortune by means of virtue, is analogous to the fundamentally dubbed role of the white side in the game of chess. By the same principle, the black pieces can be seen, due to the obvious color representation, as analogous to the transition from 19th century mores to those which were the analysis of an emerging Frankfurtian consensus. Whereas the old idea of success had spoken in terms of ends and means, the emerging idea spoke only in terms of ends.
The traditional concerns with means–the virtuous life-was for all practical purposes fading fast (Adams and Edmonds 367). On a broader basis, chess has also served the functional purpose of providing an arena for various nations to compete in quasi-battle rather than in actuality. Each year, the World Chess Federation along with the Unites States Chess Federation, sponsors tournaments open to all ethnic backgrounds and origins. Competition is a battle of the mind–a battle of wits–as opposed to the horrors of war.
Players realize that it is prudent, careful tactics that win the game rather than bold moves of brutality and ignorance. General Omar Bradley even noted once that war should be thought of as a chess game. It is through this functional purpose along with its representational truths that chess is far more than a board game, and its societal significance is far more than recreation. The inherent nature of chess as a culmination of risk, reward, prudence and respect truly make it a game that can provide players with an understanding of strategy that may not be able to be grasped otherwise.