1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Qxf7#

Checkmate. Courtesy of sxc.hu
Checkmate. Courtesy of sxc.hu

The inventor of chess should have been the richest person who ever lived.

As the legend goes, the inventor of chess brought his game to the king of wherever-the-hell they were, as a gift to amuse the sovereign. So pleased was the king that he offered to let the inventor name his/her own award.

The inventor asked only for kernels of wheat, in this amount: one kernel for the first square, double for the second, double the second for the third square, and so on all the way up to 64, the number of squares on a chess board. In other words, the sum of 20, 21, 22,…, 264.

If you add all these kernels of wheat up, it amounts to more than the Earth can produce in a thousand years. What a sneaky little geeky bastard.

Chess is somewhat unique among games in that it involves precisely zero chance. Winning or losing has nothing to do with dice, shuffling, or any such egalitarian contrivance. It depends solely on the players’ ability to analyze the situation and move accordingly. Analytical computation is the only way to win.

You don’t even need to know how to speak to play this game. It is logic entirely divorced from language and remarried to very simple rules and astoundingly complex possibilities.

In fact, the number of possible chess games surpasses the number of atoms in the universe by an amount that is quite literally unimaginable. In your lifetime, you won’t ever play the same game of chess twice, that is, unless both players are trying to. But they’d be lame if they did.

Part of the fun is knowing that each outcome will not only be different, but under your control. It is both limited by its rules, and wildly open with possibility and variation.

Not only that, but there are some awesomely insane chess players and chess stories, probably resulting from the fact that master players are more machine than human. Perhaps most people know the name Bobby Fischer, but perhaps they don’t know he was a rabid anti-Semite. The 2006 World Chess Championship was almost derailed by a complaint by one player that the other was visiting the bathroom too frequently. Last year, a cell phone won a high-level chess tournament. Seriously.

For these and many more reasons, I love chess. Very few other things kick your mind where the sun don’t shine and then demand it get up and keep playing as frequently as this game, and for some sickening reason I enjoy having that done to me.

The inventor of chess was given a stiff penalty for asking such an exorbitant prize for the game – the king required that they count every kernel of wheat they were awarded. I love chess, and I sing this person’s praises. But I’m glad I’m not that dude.

Leave a Reply