What is Chess ?
In the September-October 1962 issue of the American
Chess Bulletin there was an article by William L. Napier of
from his article, followed by a few thoughts on the subject
from other sources.
"Leibnitz (1646-l7l6) is said to have described chess as
“too much of a game for a science and too much of a science
for a game”. This was high commendation from the genius who
disputed priority with
Unfortunately, however, his witty phrase, shrewd as it is and
apt, tells us rather what chess is not than what it is.
"Facetiously, someone has said the game is closely akin to
salesmanship, which has been described as the 'art of letting
the other fellow have your way' ... by own thought, founded
on life-long association with players of many nations and many
grades, is that chess is the playground of intellectual
combativeness. No other game stands close enough to this
definition to claim lt; for chess, however, it is a snug fit, and
the players who do not fit the definition are those who for
good reasons of their own do not wish to mar their restful fun
with undue mental exertion.
"Chess, serious chess, is peculiarly a mental exercise for
those positive characters who enjoy downing stout opposition;
men, indeed, who carry the competitive spirit of their nature
or their daily pursuits over into their hours of leisure and
recreation... While it would be idle to argue that chess
demands any special mental equipment, yet the temptation here
is strong to talk of a typical chess mind. That mind, if such
there be, will assuredly be independent, skeptical, eagerly
objective and resourceful; and it will not be restrained by
overmuch meekness of the sort that makes not leaders but
George Bernard Shaw described chess as "a foolish
expedient for making idle people believe they are doing
something very clever, when they are only wasting their time."
In 1732 Thomas Fuller wrote: When a man's house is on fire,
it is time to break off chess." Emanuel Lasker said: "by some
ardent enthusiasts chess has been elevated into a science or
an art. It is neither. Its principal characteristic seems
to be what human nature mostly delights in -- a fight."
Siegbert Tarrasch wrote: "Chess is a form of intellectual
productiveness; therein lies its peculiar charm. Intellectual
productiveness is one of the greatest joys, if not the greatest one,
of human existence. It is not everyone who can write a play,
or build a bridge, or even make a good joke. But in chess
everyone can, everyone must, be intellectually productive
and so can share in this select delight. I have always a slight
feeling of pity for the man who has no knowledge of chess,
just as I would pity a man who has remained ignorant of love.
Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make man happy."
How about: "Chess is a damned good game" ?
-- Ben McCready
My friend, Ben McCready, wrote a weekly chess column
for the “Newtown Bee” newspaper of
He lived in
I used to drop by his condo/apartment to visit him after work
when I had my job at
He was a very friendly person. I remembered he was not
allowed at the Heritage Village Chess Club because he was a renter,
as opposed to a condo-owner. How unfortunate for them, as he
was a very strong player and should have been warmly welcomed
as an asset to any chess club.
Ben has sinced passed on, and I will always remember him
as the nice friendly fellow he was.