Here and there in the ancient literature we encounter legends of wise and mysterious games that were conceived and played by scholars, monks, or the courtiers of cultured princes. These might take the form of chess games in which the pieces and squares had secret meanings in addition to their usual functions.
For the creative mind, chess is more than a game of conquest, conflict, and competitive skill. Chess is a reflection of life creatively engaged.
It is worth the time, energy and mindful effort to learn to play chess. To appreciate its subtleties is to spark the creative imagination. It takes an artful combination of left and right brain thinking to maneuver successfully on the board. A game intently focused upon will produce whole brain thought and allow the mind to flow intuitively across the checkered landscape.
The game of chess was consciously designed to represent the world of transformations on a restricted field of action. Each player utilizes the different forces of nature as well as the psychological motivations hidden within. Chess mirrors our relationship with the outer world, and allows us to reflect upon our inner self as we warp and weave our way to victory.
When asked, "What is chess?" the Caliph of Baghdad replied "What is life?" Though the origins of chess are in dispute, it has been around in many guises for several thousand years. Some say it originated in India, some Persia, others in China, and the Chinese have their own version in use today. Regardless of its origins, to the enlightened mind it serves as a platform for creative transformation of the mind and spirit.
The key to understanding the deeper significance of each piece is the geometric way it moves. Does the piece move in a straight line, diagonally along the hypotenuse of a triangle or both? A square move represents earthly action. A triangular move represents alignment with the divine within. The divine within is what inspires us to creative thought.
Examining the chessboard, we see that it has 64 squares of alternating color. One interpretation indicates that the white squares represent the path of the intellect and the black represents the devotional path of the heart. The chess pieces represent the forces of nature, light and dark, good and evil, opposing forces which permit the manifestation of all things material. Each piece represents a different position, power and possibility in the game of life. How you use each piece and the kinds of risks and gambits you are willing to engage is a great reflection of your approach to life. Let's examine each piece and it's potentials.
According to Michael Schneider in his most excellent book "A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, "A complete game of chess is an evolution through a series of geometric transformations of position and power.... Each combination of pieces in various positions on the board exhibits the physical configuration of a particular energy pattern. One way to play the game is to work with the geometric tensions and make moves that bring the situation into harmony."
Great minds of history have appreciated the game of chess, among them, Goethe, Shakespeare, and Aristotle. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Chess teaches foresight, by having to plan ahead, vigilance...by having to keep watch over the whole chessboard...caution, by having to restrain ourselves from making hasty moves...and finally, we learn from chess the greatest maxim in life, that even when everything seems to be going badly for us we should not lose heart, but always hope for a change for the better, and steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems."
Some of the greatest games in history have been decided in the end game with only a single knight. Learning never to give up is a necessity in any problem-solving venture. If the true creative experience is to live an artful and successful life, then opening the mind to it's fullest extent would seem a necessary effort.
Chess is an excellent opportunity to study yourself and how you relate the world. Are you cautious or fearless? Do you lead with your head or your heart? Can you move between both at will? Can you see the whole and where it's leading or are you stuck in the isolation of the moment? Can you forge through to the very end without ever giving up? These are the qualities a creative mind needs to cultivate. Take an interest in chess and you can exercise these qualities in a playful way.