I Suck at Chess

I have great memories of my dad teaching me to play chess when I was 7-8 years old. I’m pretty sure he let me win way more than I deserved to. I distinctly remember the way he’d ask, “Are you sure you want to do that?” I’d already have removed my hand from the piece, but he’d let me look and see what I hadn’t initially seen, and then very gracefully, he’d let me try something else instead. Chess is one of those games that is simple to learn but very difficult to master. I recently came back to playing chess in my spare time after seeing a few highlights of Magnus Carlson destroying people. It looked like he was having fun, so I decided that I’d get back into it.

I made an account and tried a few games against the beginner level computers. Those games went pretty well, so I decided to challenge some real humans online who had my same ranking—(it starts you off at a default ranking of 800). It was rough…and humbling. Finally, I just updated my profile picture, so that my anonymous opponents knew exactly what I thought about the game of chess.

icon for online chess opponents

I’ve watched videos, learned about piece development, controlling the middle, trading, sacrificing, the endgame, and I just struggle. It’s not a comfortable place for me. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t often suffer a lack of confidence when learning something new…but like I said…this has been humbling…I’d run out of time and lose. When I didn’t run out of time, checkmate. Very often, I found myself losing badly and would consider it a win if I could play it out to a stalemate…today my ranking sits at 756…it’s not in freefall, but it’s not exactly climbing either…just one difficult, frustrating game after another.

At the same time, I’m not a quitter. I’ve committed myself to play at least one game a day to see if I can figure it out. This is, I think, what discipleship looks and feels like. Easy to learn and extremely difficult to master. The precept is simple: Love one another as Jesus loves us, and yet there are so many mistakes and blunders we can make, simply by not paying attention to what’s happening in the world around us.

I am trying to be more mindful and intentional about the ways in which I’m aware of Christ’s presence in my life. In my quiet moments, I take stock of where I am, and see what bubbles up. Then I wonder… “Why is this the thing that bubbled up for me today?” and I explore it, I pull at loose threads, I investigate what is the bad news that I’m falling for that’s causing this thing to bubble up today. Then, I ask a different question—if this is the bad news, what would Jesus say to me about it right now. Jesus’s word is always good news… when I get to the good news, I start to breathe a little easier, and I can then focus on what, now, should I do in light of this? My friend Lance reminded me that more often than not, this part has more to do with surrendering; letting something go rather than taking something on. We try to hold on to so much, and sometimes it’s the letting go that sets us up to receive something new.

I’m not great at this either, but I’m doing it. When I sense that something is bubbling up in the people around me, I ask them the questions too. It’s not always comfortable, but by the end, there’s a sense that Jesus has been at work speaking good news into our often under-informed perspectives.

It’s a long, difficult journey to mastery, but I’m reminded that John Wesley believed that one could be made perfect in the love of God in this life. Not because of what I can do, but because of what God does in me when I open and attune myself to God’s movements in, around, and through me.

Oh, and if you play chess at any level, I’m looking for folks I can learn with. Use this link to friend me on Chess.com https://friend.chess.com/bgNxQ and let’s play sometime!

Or use this link to email me as I’m also looking for folks I can learn discipleship with as well: mybanez@fumchurst.org

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