The World Is Not Hopeless

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I cannot play chess well – I am willing to move figures not the way the rules of the game allow. Nevertheless, I have adored the game ever since my father showed me a trickish problem about a wise man who had invented chess and had asked the ruler to reward him with all the grain that would get onto the board if one grain was put onto the first square, two grains were put onto the second square, and then some more at an exponential rate. Finally it turned out that the inventor’s award was to be a twenty-digit number, bigger than all the crops that had ever been harvested by mankind.

I appreciated the elegance with which the wise man illustrated the real value of chess. I also enjoyed the way the ruler evaded the necessity to pay this excessively high price – by asking the wise man to count every grain.

For me, chess is the symbol of everything noble the human civilization has given birth to. Because the society can afford playing chess if not all efforts are hurled into a rush for daily bread, if there is any resource left for intellectual life.

Also, it is a symbol of stability. Probably it is an echo of happy soviet childhood – with chess problems almost in every newspaper and TV program, with a Karpov vs Kasparov match, amateur tournaments with cash prizes and without them held in yards and parks.

I was sure that this world does not exist anymore. That chess champions are now competing mainly with the computer and that aikido sports clubs (this kind of sport is absolutely fine by me) substituted for chess clubs.

My belief in the mankind has been unexpectedly restored by children-cum-grown-ups-cum-grand-masters’ tournament of Sberbank Open that has been recently held at the NSC “Olimpiyskiy”. Here you could see both Anatoly Karpov and autograph signing sessions, and endless rows of tables with special clocks, and fans. The main thing is that you could see enthusiastic children and grown-ups whose eyes were shining with delight and who were playing only rapid (that’s the feature of our time) chess, but anyway they were playing CHESS. That is they were competing in surface knowledge of dominant names and titles but in the strategy and tactics of changing the world order on this old board of 64 checkers.

It means this world and this country are not hopeless. Simply there is so much the bad that the good is scarcely discernible. But it exists. You just have to look for it.

Tags: Free time