When he was learning the rules I would help him, making my move and then working with him to outfox me. Once he became proficient he was on his own. For a long time I still usually won. The day he beat me was a happy one (really). The day he beat me twice in a row I doubled down. I got careful. It got personal. And after he beat me three times in a row I didn’t want to play for awhile.
There were a few years where we played very little. I would ask to play but he didn’t want to. He said I took way too long to make a move. I was slow because I was being careful. I plotted every move as if my life depended on it. Or at least my self-respect. The problem is that it didn’t make me any better of a player and it made the game less fun.
Then this past winter we went on vacation and over the long flight I suggested we play chess. It had been a long time - maybe six months since we last played. He was bored enough to say yes. And something changed for me. I got back in touch with the fact that it was only a game. I knew if I lost there would be another game. I also knew if I continued to plot and plod he would get annoyed (happens easily at 16) and it wouldn’t be as much fun. So I got bold. I worried less about defense. I worried less about all the what ifs.
We played many games. His crowning glory was getting me into checkmate in 4 moves. Mine was giving myself the freedom to fail. And in doing so I won more. We played more, I won more, and lost more, and we both had more fun.
I came home thinking this might be the lesson I took from vacation this year. To be bold. I’m over 50. What really do I have to lose? I want to do something for the greater good. My accomplishments are small but I’ve helped bend the arc in my own personal way. I don’t want to let other opportunities pass me by while I play defense. Against what? Failing? Being laughed at? Financial ruin? It’s time to let go of fear and be brave enough to be bold.
Robert Frost said “Freedom lies in being bold.” So does fun, and so does progress. We live in a time that needs bold ideas, bold people, bold moves. There was a time where perhaps caution was advisable. If I didn’t play my cards right I might lose the opportunity to try again. Today there are fewer opportunities to go big and so I will swing for the fences.
Next month is my birthday. My gift to myself will be the freedom to be bold - for all the right reasons. That, and to beat my son at another game of chess.