I know, I know...already? I'm having a stroke of brilliance, tonight, I think. Anyways, I grew up in Montreal, on chess and the Illiad. Not so much a fable as a parable...
Montreal, a sunny day in June. Westmount Park is filled with the screams of joyful children. The big oaks cast shadows across the swings and
playground. Parents watched and chatted amongst themselves. A dog lapped water from the pond as a a few of the more carefree teenagers waded through
it, jeans rolled up to their knees. A father and son sat at a table, playing chess despite the noise.
The father stretched as he settled in, looking over the perfectly aligned plastic pieces. His were black. The son looked up at him, eager. Chess with
his father was a rare treat. The father nodded.
"You may begin, Mordecai."
The boy smiled widely, moving a pawn towards the center of the board. The father countered easily, the black knight hoping the line of pawns. The
click of the piece hitting the board was lost among the screams of happy children.
"Your moves are predictable, Papa. You always open like that."
"And you lack patience, my son. The game has just begun, and you call me predictable. Do you remember the name of this opening?"
"Alekhine's Defence, Papa."
The son advanced his knight, then patiently waited as his father considered his next move.
"Protecting your pawn?"
"Protect your pawns, and they'll protect you."
The game played out solidly. The father was aggressive, as the son strove to protect his pieces, always a little ahead.They traded bishops, pawns. The
son was abnormally conservative, the father almost reckless. Eventually, the odds began to tip in the son's favor.
"You castled. Learned from the last game?"
"Yes, Papa, have you?"
The game continued, until half the pieces from each side were gone. The father's turns became longer and longer. He lost more and more pieces.
Finally, it came to the point where the son could take his father's queen, and the father could do nothing to prevent it.
The boy's hand reached for the rook threatening it. His father held up a hand.
"Mordecai, stop and think."
The boy frowned up at his father. He was only ten, but he knew how to play chess.
"You fell into my trap, Papa. My rook moves to H7 and takes your queen."
He moved the pieces. He grinned and held up the black queen for his father to see.
"See? And my rook is protected by my bishop, so you can't take it."
The father's head shook, a dark silhouette against the bright Montreal sky. A great gusting sigh rushed across the chessboard at the young boy. He
was confused, was his father disappointed? He had captured the queen, surely a good thing. There was a trickle of fear in him now as the seconds
"No, son. Shahmat."
The boy looked across the granite board. Sure enough, checkmate. A knight had slunk across the board, pinning his king in place behind its wall of
pawns. The sole escape was blocked by the father's bishop, fianchettoed unnoticed in a corner.
"But...that's not how you play! You protect your queen, it's your best piece!"he exclaimed, dismayed and confused. The father smiled.
"Your best piece, but not your most important piece. The point of the game is to capture the king. The king is the lifeblood of the board."
"Yes, Papa, I know. But why let your queen be captured to do it?"
"Chess is like the game of life. Sometimes, my son, in both you must sacrifice something dear in order to win the game. Do not think that by
shielding something you are protecting it."