The Gift

According to a Google search I recently conducted, as many adults regularly play chess as are users of Facebook. That is a large number of the world’s population, and while I am not a user of  the latter, I play the former. My rating is about 725, which means that I am far from being a good player. But that is okay because my rating cannot gauge the satisfaction I receive from playing on-line chess: I have won a few more games than I have lost; I have had some draws; I have lost to women; I have lost to younger players; I have played players who live in a range of countries; I have been checkmated by a player waiting for a flight in an airport; I have learned about COVID in other countries through the message board; and I have been gifted by a player in India.

Recently I logged in and requested to play. The machinery spun and a player’s user name, national flag, and rating appeared on the screen. The player’s rating was about fifty points higher than mine, so I would be awarded ten points for a win, two points for a draw, and six points for a loss. I was excited because I would rather lose to a superior player than beat a lesser one; plus, sometimes I play poorer against lower rated players. So I moved my white pawn and waited for his response with a dark piece.

By my fourth or fifth move, his superior skill was causing me trouble. I could find no way to penetrate his wall of pawns, and he was beginning to advance his major pieces. I had a sinking feeling, but I continued looking for some way to gain some foothold. Yet it seemed the harder I tried, the more perilous my position was. My big blunder in losing my queen did not help my cause, and soon, mercifully, my doom was imminent. I had several pawns, one lonely king, and a rook to my opponent’s  array of powerful pieces. Then his queen captured my rook. Done! Kaput! Fried! But—wait. The result screen showed that my opponent had resigned, and I was awarded ten points for the win. I messaged him and asked why. He responded, “I am rated higher than you, and the game was not fair.” He had required me to play while not patronizing me by “letting” me win.

Fair? The game was more than fair; it was just. I was whopped by a superior player, and I wonder if he is not a superior person as well? I mean, would I resign a game I had clearly won because I was rated higher than my opponent? Do I have the character required to freely give away ten points of my rating?

He required me to play then he gave me the gift, and I do not mean the ten points. When he resigned he created a moment of kindness and gentleness. When he resigned, he demonstrated that chess on my level is more than points in a rating. When he resigned, he acted like the champion he is.

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