Sunday, April 24, 2011

When Ignorance is a Virtue

Eight year old reinvents chess. There's a deep and meaningful message here.

I was understandably touched when she came to me the next day wishing to play chess. “Of course!” I replied. “Great,” she said. “Here are the rules.”

She handed me a packet of papers, and at the top of the first she had written, “Plastic Animal Chess.” Below this was an enumeration of the kinds of pieces to be used (with blanks where we would record which plastic animals would be the stand-ins for each type), along with what each kind of piece does.

“This is complicated, Honey,” I wondered aloud, worried it would be far too difficult for her — and me. There were, by the end of her four hand-written pages, 10 distinct piece types and 18 pieces in all. “Chess only has six types, and it is already immensely difficult!” I said.

But more than my fright at the complexity of her game was another reaction, this one in my gut. Wasn’t there something mildly wrong about this new game of hers? Chess is a revered institution. What kind of heretic plays chess once and immediately presumes to do better?


Jimio said...

At least young people have an open mindand Mozart gave us great new music when he was very young. It's good to nurish a new spirit of innovation, imagination and ingenuity in our young.

mekelnborg said...

What kind of a mind? An open, sharp, creative one that has not yet been crushed by naysayers and dreamkillers. Her game sounds good, so far. Hope it hasn't disappeared forever.

Intermezzo said...

Thanks for this fascinating bit of signposting CGM. I don't know how you turn up all of this good chess-related content but I love it! I've featured this post in the fifth edition of the Chess Improvement Carnival that we are hosting on our site at the moment. Cheers,