An old man who plays chess in the evenings at Starbucks asked me if I knew how many moves to count until a match is considered to be a stalemate when one player has only his king remaining?
He had been playing for many years and was now having a friendly argument about this with his opponent.
“Ten, I think” I said to him, he replied that he thought it was 25 and he turned back to his table and the game. I told him to wait, I could look it up on the internet. Being an old man he hadn’t thought of that and he liked the idea. What we discovered was that the correct and official answer is 50.
What did I learn from this experience other than a chess rule? Actually, many things. Let’s see where this goes.
The stalemate rule is actually quite complex and specific. An interesting point is that a king may not capture or “Check” another king. Obviously this is due to the fact that the offending king would need to put itself in jeopardy in order to do this. Looked at a bit more deeply, since a king cannot be taken by another king, this means a king may only be taken by a superior (but there are none) or an inferior piece.
Imagine you are playing chess with a friend. You spot an opportunity to Checkmate his king with your knight. You reach out and attempt to move the little wooden horse but it won’t budge! As hard as you try it just won’t move. To your surprise the little eyes look up at you and in a trembling voice the knight says “I’m Scarred! I don’t dare go after the king!”.
Your friend begins to laugh maniacally. “You coward!” he thunders. He secretly knows that the only thing keeping you from winning the game is the “inferior” mentality of your knight. He continues this belittling in an effort to keep his power through intimidation. It seems to be working, the knight is petrified! Suddenly you have an idea.
You lean over and whisper something to the bishop, who seems to smile back at you.
The bishop looks at the knight and reminds him of what happened five moves ago. Just five moves ago the bishop took the queen!
The knight remembers this and seems to gain resolve. You look reassuringly at him, no words are necessary. The knight is still a bit scarred but he knows he can do this.
You reach for the knight again, but this time it moves. Up two, over one. Checkmate!
There are three types of relationships on a chess board and in life. Superior / Inferior, where a stronger force is influencing a weaker force. Peer to peer, where equivalent forces are in conflict. The third being weaker virus stronger, think David and Goliath.
It is totally logical and believable that a Superior could take down a Subordinate, or to put it another way, someone with greater ability or power can overcome someone of lesser strength or position. I think we can all agree on this.
The second scenario make sense as well. Two kings, both possessing equal power, ability and stature will likely end their confrontation in a stalemate. In life, if both people are reasonable then compromise or common ground may be found.
The third way, however, is by far the most interesting. The inferior chess piece taking down the superior. The fact is, every chess match that has ever been won in the history of the game was won by an “inferior” piece taking on the “Superior” king. Can you take this attitude from the chess board and apply it to your life?
In our daily lives, at work and in many social settings certain people are deemed to be our “Superiors”, does that mean by default that we are their “Inferiors”? Think about it, there can’t be one without the other.