Chess and literature: a weird parallelism

Author:  Aditi Chandrasekar 

Chess has always been more than simply a game. Since time immemorial, it has been used as a metaphor, an inspiration and a lesson. Consequently, chess and the most prominent art form, literature have been intertwined for centuries. The game has made multiple appearances, and has even been a significant leitmotif in many renowned works throughout history. For example, in ‘The Tempest’, William Shakespeare depicts a chess match between lovers Ferdinand and Miranda. In the classic ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ by Walter Tevis, a chess prodigy struggles to handle the emotional rollercoaster that is the competitive chess circuit. Chess was an important participant in many of 20th century novelist, Vladimir Nabokov’s works, either as an aid underpinning the theme or in explicit scenes featuring the game. 

Arguably, the primary objective of poetry is to evoke emotion out of the reader, comparable with the objective of the game to “checkmate” the opponent’s king (here, the opponent’s king is equivalent to the reader). Chess’ game play consists of two distinct parts-strategy and tactics. Chess strategy involves achieving long-term advantages during the game, while tactics concentrate on immediate movements. These two aspects of the game play cannot be separated, because strategic goals can only be accomplished through tactics, while tactical manoeuvres are based on the strategy of play. Identical to the concepts of strategy and tactics in chess, the aesthetic appeal and the grammatical structuring of poetry are two inextricable components, which when bound together appropriately, produce a lovely work. 

Prose, with its carefully woven story-lines, is very similar to chess. Every move on the checkerboard is analogous to a development in a story’s plot. A game of chess is typically divided into three parts: the opening, the middle-game and the endgame. This can be compared to the structuring of an essay or a novella. Another obvious similarity is that each piece in chess has its own way of moving, much like the characters of a story. Each character in a tale has a set of qualities that the writer appropriately utilities to advance the story. It is not a surprise then, that this evident correspondence was addressed in one of the first works ever published in English- William Caxton’s book ‘The Game and Playe of the Chesse’, uses different chess pieces as metaphors for different classes of people. Chess strategy is similar to literary devices used by writers in their works to assist future happenings in their story, like epigraphs or foreshadowing. 

Much like chess’ ever-evolving metaphorical meanings through the ages, the world of drama has seen drastic advancements as well. Drama is thought to have originated from religious observances during the Middle Ages, while modern playwrights use theater to express opinions about current events, typically cultural or political. Chess, as much as it is a game, is also a performance. The chessboard can be thought of as a miniature stage on which the performance is carried out. Mine, a popular form of drama, bears a resemblance to chess in the sense that observers have to make sense of the internal meanings that the silent performance represents. The expressionist core of chess has been addressed by many, most notably by Fernando 

Arrabal, a Spanish playwright, once said of chess “I know of no spectacle on Earth that can keep thousands of spectators enthralled for five hours.” 

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Accepting Perspectives

 Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

 

Wayne Dyer quoted- “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” 

Perspective, as described by the Oxford dictionary, is a particular attitude towards something; a way of looking at things or situations. For me, perspective is but a simple truth of life which we sometimes willingly choose to ignore. For a long time, humans have divided judgement on actions and reactions into only two categories: right and wrong. But how can we decide whether something is right or wrong if everyone is looking at it from a different angle? Every individual has his/her own unique personality which makes them stand out in the crowd. Everyone’s “way of looking at things” is different. 

Most of the arguments that we normally get engaged in occur due to different point of views. When conferring about, say, a recent crime, one might be sympathizing with the victim while someone else may have put themselves in the shoes of the accused. The reason of the argument is that the other person has a different perspective on things. He is looking through his pair of glasses at the world, as well as we all do. This means that we filter everything by our personal history, our beliefs, motivations and concepts that we hold true. But what is correct for us may not necessarily be so for another.

Our choice of not understanding and accepting another outlook is what turns discussions into debates. Somewhere, it causes unrest in our own minds. Often we are afraid that seeing the other perspective could lead to us losing the argument … or worse, to get a disadvantage. But the true value of another perspective lies within seeing more of a situation and therefore being able to make a better judgment for ourselves as well as the other person. I personally feel frustrated when the person I am conversing with doesn’t try to look at things the way I do. So here’s my main question: why inflict so much torture on our minds?

I recently finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird. Reading reviews of the book, I noticed people talking about the upsetting discrimination based on the caste and colour of an independent underlined by the author. For me, however, the highlight of the book is the way the narrator grows mature when she starts accepting her neighbor for who he is. From being curious and apprehensive about his way of living life, she transforms to a person who looks at the world from his eyes, accepts his choices and in the process learns that he cares for her in his own special way.

My point, simply put, is that things seem to get complicated when we keep on opposing. Instead, life becomes plain sailing when we start accepting. Someone is acting in a particular way depending on how they perceive that situation. To acknowledge and respect another person’s perspective can only lead to a more positive outcome. The self growth accompanied by acceptance is incomparable. Not only does it broaden our horizons, it brings us peace of mind too. If you get a bigger picture, you get a perspective that is able to solve a situation that seemed unsolvable first.

The greater good is to recognize others and their viewpoints. After all, they say open-minded people do not impose their beliefs on others. They accept all of life’s perspectives and realities, doing their own thing in peace.

Why Humans are Weird

Author: Divyang Arora

 

His clothes laced with sweat; the stonemason works on hitting on the slab of marble
repeatedly from angles that only he knows until he loses track of time. The sun rises and sets and stars change their positions and the sculptor remains oblivious. His sculpture appears perfect, a woman holding her baby, the smile on her face expressing repressed joy that she feels when she looks into the child’s eyes. To another man, his work is finished but the mason knows that it’s not even close to completion. Years of practice have told him that it is the most delicate of details, the wrinkles, the stretch marks, and the zits that make the sculpture look truly human. Right now, it will attract high praises about how it’s a masterpiece, but what he’s about to do will leave people speechless. His thoughts wander to how the rich madams who buy his sculptures always have more cosmetics on their faces than he can count and how people try to remove the very thing that makes his sculptures breathtakingly beautiful. These signs of wear that everyone is so eager to get rid of, speak of the person’s journey and what they have been through. It makes the emotions that they feel so much more defined. He gave a slight chuckle as he thought how funny it was that he was trying to turn statues into humans while they were trying to change themselves into statues.

*****

The bazaar is packed with people and filled with the screams of young lads who work there asking the customers to have a look at their goods. A little boy looks at a white t-shirt with his favorite cartoon and runs to it. He pleads to his mother to buy it for him. When his mother declines, he starts crying and soon the mother and child have the attention of people around them. The mother lets out a sigh, sits down and explains to him in a gentle tone how white clothes easily get dirty and promises to buy a different colored t-shirt with the same cartoon. The sculptor who has set up shop right beside the boy selling t-shirts witnesses the entire scene and can’t help but think about how humans trick themselves into believing things that lead to self-satisfaction, regardless of how true they may be. If you think about it for more than ten seconds you realize that when the material is the same, there’s no reason that white clothes should get dirtier than clothes of any other color. The only difference is that the dirt and the marks are more visible on white, and humans have always been about how things look and not how they truly are. They would rather put less effort into washing dark colored clothes and pretend that they are completely clean than waste more times on washing a white cloth and know for sure that it’s clean. Funny how humans create their own illusions
without even realizing it and then pass on these illusions to their children and no one bothers to question them, as long as the illusion leaves them satisfied.

The Game of Life

“Was the moon landing fake?”, “Was Avril Lavigne replaced by a clone?” , “Was time travel possible?” These were the questions that consumed me once I introduced myself to conspiracy theories. They overtook the mundane thoughts I generally had: food, the unpredictability of the future and several replays of witty conversations. Even though some of them sounded far-fetched, like the flat Earth theory, there was something fascinating about them. I couldn’t help myself from sleuthing around; I needed answers. The ones with substantial proof made me question everything; Nothing seemed real anymore. Among the several evidence bearing theories, one particular theory intrigued me the most, the theory that stated the possibility of the earth being a simulation. Every other theory had enough shortcomings for me to accept that it might be a coincidence, but this one had more “What ifs” than “That’s absurd”. Of course, saying “We are a bunch of characters in a computer game” sounded insane, but something within me couldn’t discredit all the coincidences that had happened in the past and how they seemed connected to a computer game.

I used to watch Sims playthroughs for fun, but after hearing about this theory, every second of every video became an opportunity for comparison. In the game, the player was allowed to control several people at once. Their likes, dislikes, actions and lifestyle, everything was in the player’s hands but in the latest versions, the people were allowed to have a say of their own. For example, in the earlier versions if the person wasn’t given an action, they’d stay idle till an order was given, however now it was possible that the person would begin to do whatever they pleased if no orders were given and they also had the ability to deny the order and do something else. This got me thinking, what if the orders were analogous to our inner voices. Sometimes we pay heed to them, sometimes we don’t, just like the Sims characters. There were so many tiny factors like this that boggled my mind. In the game, the player had an option to cancel the character’s actions from a lineup. This seemed very similar to something that kept happening to me- I’d go into a room for some reason, then I’d forget why I was there. Another thing about the lineup was that the order of the actions could be changed, just like our order of priority. This was relevant to the fact that sometimes procrastinate homework to do something less important. We could blame that on poor willpower, but what about the times I decided to put nature on hold just to continue scrolling aimlessly on my phone. The game also allowed time to pass by faster at the click of a button. Nothing of that sort ever happened in our world, right? What about the times when time would drag on till the point where we thought our watches were broken? The times when every minute was definitely lesser than 60 seconds? It made sense.

The next 2 epiphanies I had regarding this topic were not as concrete as the previous ones, they were sillier. First, a computer simulation would explain every paranormal experience anyone had ever had, especially strange occurrences involving movement of furniture and other objects, from their original positions. The game had a feature where we could change from “game mode” to “build mode”. Game mode was the mode in which the game was played and build mode was the mode in which we could rearrange furniture, buy and sell objects etc. Second, the character’s wants would show up at the bottom of the screen and you’d have the choice of whether or not to fulfil them. This was a lot like the law of attraction, which states that “if you believe you will obtain something, it will manifest into reality”. Obviously, an object dropping from the sky would be outrageous, but the coincidences involving people getting what they really wanted were too many to ignore.

But if the world was indeed a simulation, that would mean that there would be glitches in the system? It would mean resurrection and immortality weren’t impossible. I was left with so many questions, more than when I began sleuthing around. What if the simulation crashed? Would life continue from a checkpoint, like in the games? Was that why Mandela effects existed? What was the purpose of this simulation? Who created it? And why? Who controlled us? I couldn’t believe anything as it was, everything had something hidden behind it.