Friday, August 28, 2009

talking, 6

We were quiet for a bit, probably a bit wearied from all of that. And it wasn't even all that much, I thought. We weren't really doing any 'heavy lifting', so to speak, and I'd be lying if I said I was completely satisfied with all I had said. Not that I thought I was wrong, but it still seems...I don't know...weak, or incomplete, or something like that.

Gus broke the silence. "I'm not sure I understand what's going on here, assuming there is some truth to the book's claim that their is something going on."

I nodded. "Maybe I can help a bit with an example, one from real life, even, that used some similar words, and even involves something we both like."


I laughed a little. "You'll have to find a chef to tell you if this is related to anything food-related. No, the parallel I want to use has to do with things in the history of chess."


"How familiar are you with the history of the game, particular over the past, oh, 150years, roughly?"

"Not very. I've been playing for a couple of years, but don't really follow it well, or know the history. Heck, I'm pretty sure I don't pronounce most of those opening's names correctly."

"I know, those can be difficult. Let me give a bit of a lesson, if I may.

"In the 1800's, chess play had a certain hack-and-slash character to it. Gambit openings were the norm, with people trying to create brilliant attacks, and defensive play was not all that good. Players like Morphy and Anderssen were more-or-less of that school, though they did bring some differences.

"In the early 1900's, a new movement began, called the Hypermodern movement. I guess it could be said to have begun with Nimzovich and his book "My System", and carried on by him and others like Reti, Tartakover, Bogolyubov, and others. To put it simply, they looked for different ways of playing the game, or maybe more accurately different ways of applying the principles of how to play.

"For example, you've probably heard about centralization, Gus?"

"Yes. Usually that means to somehow occupy or control the center of the chess board."

"Pretty much, yes. Most players before the Hypermoderns opened with the king pawns or queen pawns, as either white or black. Centralization pretty much meant occupation. With the Hypermoderns, the notion of distant control of the center was explored, and we started getting such openings like the Reti and Nimzovich, in which one or both bishops are fianchettoed early on, and defenses like the various Indian defenses, with one bishop usually being fianchettoed.

"Further, ideas about the center changed. Players began to delay moving pawns to the center, and even learned that a wall of pawns in the center may have its weaknesses as well as strengths. It was a rather razor-edged thing, to be sure.

"And so, at a time when some even world-class players were bemoaning the soon-coming death of chess, the game was receiving an infusion of new ideas and life. Those ideas are still with us, and often enough even the lowliest amateur nowadays will try to attempt to use them, maybe not very well, but he or she is still familiar enough with them to make some attempt."

"Well, I didn't know that. I knew about the Reti opening, though I don't understand it."

"I guess I should do some justice to the sage's statement of 'grossly oversimplifying' things, because to be fair that's what I did with that summary. One could, for example, point to such players as Lasker, Steinitz, and even Tarrasch as being kind of precursors of the Hypermodern school, particularly Steinitz. I suppose it should also be pointed out that few of the Hypermoderns were really at the very top of the chess world. The world champions of that era were Lasker, Capablanca, and Alekhine, and none of those could be considered Hypermoderns, though Alekhine may have come close at times. They would borrow ideas from the Hypers, but their overall styles were more a mix of the classical and the new.

"And I guess that is to be expected, and even may explain why they were stronger. They weren't so much trying to make something new as they were trying to play winning chess."

"Are you trying to bring in a bit of pragmatism, then?"

I paused, trying to consider that question. "I don't know. Maybe the question of whether one thing works better then another is ok, so long as the question of whether the options themselves are still ok is answered.

"As a for example, I know there are churches that have services at different times on Sundays. By that, I don't mean the ones that have morning services and then something else in the evening, but ones that have basically the same service a few times in the day, maybe early in the morning, then around mid-morning, and a last one at around noon, and they don't have an evening service. I'm fine with that, and see no reason why a church should be overly questioned for doing such a thing. In such a case, then, of when to have services, the idea of what works best may be a good one, because their shouldn't be a question of any particular time being somehow more 'sacred' then others. Traditionalists, then, are to my mind free to have the morning and evening services, but other options may be considered by other churches."

"Could you hold on a moment. I need to go to the restroom. I'll be back."

"Sure." I was glad for the break. Truth be told, I was exhausted. I rarely talk so much, even at work. I live alone, have some people I e-mail fairly regularly, but such conversations as this were not common for me. It was welcomed, I admit that, but it was also laborious. I found a newspaper that had been left by someone, and was glancing through it when Gus returned.

"One more thing, Jon, and then I'll need to leave. Your analogy to chess seems to be saying that you're open to changes. Are you, then, adopting the emergent view?"

That was one that I feared would be tricky. "Let me try and answer that in this way.

"If you look at the chessic Hypermoderns again, you'll find that what they looked at was how the game was being played. The changes they put forth, then, had to do with ideas of, let's say, centralization, or development. And that was fine. In fact, in most ways, they didn't even really change the principles of how to play the game well, only in how those principles were applied.

"What they didn't recommend, though, was that the game itself should be changed. What I mean by that is, the game of chess that they played was the same game of chess that those before and after them played. They did not, for example, try to make rooks move like knights, or recommend that pawns be allowed to move backwards. Nor did they try to introduce pieces from other games, by for example saying that checker pieces should be used in place of pawns, or the players should roll dice when attempting to capture an opponent's piece.

"To try to put it as simply as I'm able, they were concerned with changing 'how' the game was played, not with changing the game itself."

"But haven't the rules changed over time? Like I said, I don't know the history all that well, but aren't things like castling pretty recent changes?"

"True, and it's about there that the analogy breaks down. It has changed a good bit in it's history--the queen and some other pieces are more powerful then they were at one time, and other things were introduced like castling. In more recent times, people have been concerned that the game is being played out, especially with computers and their abilities to calculate so much. Various ideas have been put forth about ways of changing the game, from the serious to the more not-serious ones like Bughouse. And that's not even counting the variations from other cultures, like Chinese Chess and the Japanese game Shogi.

"And for what it's worth, that's fine, because chess is only a game, and making changes to it does not involve in itself any important morals or ethics. In regards to the emergents, though, we do have to be more demanding, because it isn't a game, it's about religion and our souls and what God has told us. Some of the changes they make in church forms may be fine, and some of their social concerns may be ones that should be looked at, but I'm not so certain that they want so much to have us consider different ways of doing church as much as it seems they want us to go beyond that."

"I need to run." Gus said, standing. "Maybe we should keep doing this, trying to make sense of what this guy and his cronies are saying. Friday's a bit difficult, though, because of chess taking up so much time."

"We could try for another time." We talked for a moment about our schedules, and decided to try for Wednesday at around 6:30. He left, and I finished me coffee and paper, and walked home.

No comments: