Friday, September 9, 2011

The Three Games

Chess, for example, the great historical game of the West, involves monarchs, armies, slaughter, and the eventual destruction of one king by another. The game appears to be entirely directed along the lines of the great myths of the West from the Mahabharata to the Song of Roland -- the overthrow of a hero and the crowning of a new hero. The pieces, from king down to pawn (peon), give a picture of a heirarchical and pyramidal society with powers strictly defined and limited.

The `Three Games' is a useful classification because taken together they make up a coherent world view. Most of philosophy boils down to speculation centered around the three basic relationships of the human species. The first is man in his relationship to the remote gods and the mysterious forces of the universe. The second is man in the society he builds up around him. The third is man in his own self. Or, to put it another way, man the backgammon-player, man the chess-player, and man the go-player.
Go and the `Three Games'
by William Pinckard

I am always intrigued when I read anything pertaining to chess. This got me reflecting about the time I found Gammons, a backgammon parlor in the Peachtree/Piedmont Crossing shopping center in the Buckhead part of Atlanta back in the late 70's. I was working at a bookstore, Mr K's, and would walk over after work. There was a bar and backgammon tables where one could play and/or eat. Usually the players would eat while playing so as to not waste time. I would eat dinner and then spectate. I did that for a week or so before trying my luck. One day a former Texas state junior chess champion, Dr Steven Moffit, walked in. I had met him in San Antonio back in '72. He was a professor of statistics and probility at Emory University. It was early and there were no backgammon players yet, so he asked if I had a chess set. I walked back to Mr K's and retrieved my set & clock and we played a 15 minute game. During the game the BG players filtered in, curious to see us playing chess. "What'cha playing for?" one asked. He was disappointed when we said we were playing for the love of the game. "Ain't worth playing if there's no money involved," he said. As I recall, it came down to an ending with little time left on the clock and we began to blitz the moves out. This piqued their interest. I remember thinking that Steve was a positional player because he had white and fianchettoed his King bishop and played an early h3. We agreed to a draw and one of the onlookers said, "You mean there ain't a winner?"
We decided to play another game to even the colors, and someone said, "I got twenty on Moffit!" Steve said, "Hold on now, Mr Bacon won the Atlanta Championship a few years ago. That caused someone to place a wager on me. More people gathered around now that money was on the table, with more money going on Steve, since they knew him, even though he told them he was sorely outta practice. We battled down to just Kings left on the board. "So who won?" They were disappointed when we told them it was another draw. "But you have more time left. Don't you win?" I was asked. Steve told them that it was a draw without enough mating material left on the board. "But can't he just keep moving his King until your time runs out?" Steve told them that it was just not done in chess. "What the hell kinda game is this with no winner?" And they walked away... Then Steve got into a chouette and I watched. As far as I know, that was the only time chess was played at Gammons.
Later, Steve and I got to talking about a board game triathlon, with chess, backgammon, and Go. "Since you play Go, you could have a chance to win," Steve told me. I told him that I knew the rules, but was not much of a Go player, losing almost every game I had played. "That's ok man, most chess and backgammon players do not even know the rules of Go!"
The British with their 'Mind Games' have the nearest thing to a board game triathlon, I suppose. Over the years I've often thought of our idea of a triathlon with The Three Games.

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