The game of chess is shrouded in mysterious origins. The game combines elements common to Persian Indian, and Chinese games, and its origins seem to come from the Pathan Empire, which reigned for several hundred years in what is now Afghanistan, where the trade routes of those three cultures combined in lands ruled over from about 200 BC to 200 AD by a nation allied with the Parthian Empire to its west (and possibly of the same ethnic makeup). The game reached Europe (and thus Western Civilization) through the Arabs of Spain, who learned it in Persia during the early period of the Islamic Empire.
The rules of the game itself seem to presuppose a Middle Eastern or “Oriental” (for lack of a better word) view of monarchy where the “king” is the most important piece but the vizir (what we call the “queen”) is the piece that can move the most. If you have read the end of Genesis (where Joseph becomes the “second in charge”) after the Pharaoh, or Esther, where Mordecai becomes the grand vizir of the Persian Empire after the wicked Haman is killed, one realizes one has already seen vizirs in action biblically. The emperor is in his palace, surrounded by his harem and the vizir is out and about. The Secfenia Dark series of stories, which I co-wrote with a friend (Bobby Russ) tells a similar story of an emperor who reigns but a Directrix (second-in-command) who travels around and makes sure the country stays secure. This is a typically “Eastern” view of monarchy, as opposed to the one-man rule and divine right rulers of most Western autocracies. The game of chess, therefore, expresses a worldview within its rules about pieces and movements.
I have always thought of myself as behaving most like the “knight” on a chessboard. Knights are famously indirect in their use, and the knight fork is among the most elegant moves one can make to threaten multiple pieces or positions at the same time. The knight, after all, is the only piece of a chessboard that does not move in a straight line, but rather moves in an l-shaped way. Likewise, there is no way to block an attack from a knight, unlike that of any other piece, which can be blocked by another piece moving between it and the target. I would like to think that the knight (with all of its connotations) is the ideal piece to describe my own strategic approach.
As it happens, chess is a game I have long enjoyed. My sole placing of my name within my elementary school just outside of Plant City, Florida is as a result of my third place finish in Cork Elementary School’s 1992 Chess Tournament. I’ve never been someone who has played chess to win four or eight-move checkmates. Rather I have played a plodding and relentless style of game that usually ended up in the mass destruction of many opposing pieces and that took a fair amount of time to accomplish. I play chess for the long haul. Unsurprisingly, I was in chess club as a high school student as well.
When playing chess, one must remember the ultimate goal is to checkmate your opponent, to leave no moves for him, to leave him utterly impotent. Often I pursue debates like chess games, seeking to deny any ability of the person I am arguing to move, to argue, to counter, leaving him no options but surrender or destruction. I suppose that makes me an unfriendly debate partner, and it certainly makes me a serious and fierce opponent in general. I play chess with the same approach as I take in general in strategy in my life–I am plodding, ferocious, and willing to sacrifice to get where I want to go and do what I want to do. Ultimately, my goal is for a massive and decisive victory. If I consent to a war with someone else, I fight to the death, with a goal that anyone who attacks will not be in a position to make the same mistake ever again. Perhaps that is why I play so many war games, because even the games I like to play I play as seriously as I treat warfare. I suppose that ought not to be a surprise to anyone.