Warrior Words: Checkmate

Whenever I read a novel for English class, I always look for important quotations that my teacher could twist into a prompt for one of her notorious “literary analysis essays.” During my week-and-a-half-long vacation (thank you, Sandy), I sat down and read my latest assigned book Notes From the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Although most of the novel was so confusing it might as well have been written in Russian, one theme stood out to me as clear “prompt” material so I began to dissect it.

Dostoyevsky explains how man loves the process of obtaining something, but does not quite like actually obtaining it. Metaphorically speaking, man is interested in playing chess, but not in actually capturing the king piece. At first, this idea seemed absurd to me. I listen to my teachers and then go home and study at night because I want to “obtain” an A on the test. I give my all in practice and the weight room because I want to win on the baseball diamond. In the short term, I would do whatever it takes to capture the mighty king.

After pondering the topic further, however, I realized Dostoyevsky was referring to long-term acquisitions, and in that case, I would have to agree with him. I’ve realized I am much more interested in my four-year journey as a high schooler than I ever will be in my high school diploma. And, although I look forward to that day when I receive my college diploma, I eagerly anticipate the four years of my college journey that precedes that event because everyone has told me they’re some of the best years of your life. If a checkmate is symbolic of the diploma, then I am much more interested in playing the chess game.

Perhaps I am still thinking too short-term. I recently came across a quote from the movie Meet Joe Black (although first coined by Benjamin Franklin) that “the only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Granted that’s a somewhat pessimistic view of life, it is true; I will always have to pay taxes (I already have seen the effects on my paycheck!) and I will eventually die one day. Everything else is uncertain; where I go to college, what job I get, where I live, and who I meet all remain a mystery. But isn’t that what Dostoyevsky meant? I would hate to know all the aspects of my life now, as a 17-year-old high school senior; or to continue my chess metaphor, I would loathe capturing the king only a couple moves into the game. I want to drag out my chess game as long as possible because what is there to look forward to after I triumphantly capture the king?

One of my friends, an avid chess fanatic, always challenges me to a game whenever the opportunity arises. Before starting, he modestly places his fourth grade chess championship plaque next to the board as if to intimidate me — and he does win about 99% of the time. Just because the outcome is always the same, however, doesn’t mean the game is predictable. There are about 319 billion ways in which players can take just four turns, which shows that, although all games end the same way, there is an infinite amount of ways to get there. I can never know ahead of time which combination of moves I will choose, but at least I know how to enjoy playing the game.

 Will Bruschi is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with four classmates.