Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Slipping into darkness

I always like that old song that "slippin' into darkness....". I'm certainly in favor of metaphoric light over metaphoric darkness. I do not like to be in insecure dark places or in places where I do not feel safe. I am all for light moods over dark moods, and all that. But comfortable dark places I love. I love sitting in my own room or office in the dark. I love seeing nothing shining but the red light on my shortwave radio. I love distant stars and nebulae, which I can only see when it is very dark.

Last night my on-line chess openings seemed to go really downhill, as I played openings like the Sicilian Defense which do not suit me well.
The Sicilian is a bit like playing one of those Starcraft-style games in which one has an alien species which is really good at shooting projectiles, but also gets shot at alot. My own style is much more congenial to another computer concept, the software language Logo. In Logo, one uses commands to manipulate a line-drawing turtle through various pointless but beautiful geometric shapes. Nowadays, of course, Logo has advanced enough for myriad of turtles to have pointless interactions, which is rather more charming to but not altogether dissimilar from, Fox News. Well, make that a kinder, happier (okay, "smurfier", if you will) Fox News.

After I got devastated repeatedly in positions I had no business assaying, I
went to a tried and true system. I played the Small Center System.
This involves pushing pawns one square forward, developing the pieces in a cramped defensive position and just waiting. There is no "why" or "what". Just waiting. Call it a Zen opening, if you choose. Call it Beckettian. I call it the Small Center System.

Chess openings always have subtle histories, and even the Small Center System has its own fable. Its "other" name is the Lengfellner System, after a German doctor named Lengfellner. Dr. Lengfellner theorized that by playing this system, it was virtually impossible for one to be beaten quickly. Thus, he felt this the perfect system for chess players without talent or time to study, who did not want to face simple massacre at the chess board. He even paid masters to stage a famous match using this system. The system never caught on. I play this system now.

You see, I am very good at blockading. I am a surprisingly solid defender.
I cannot attack my way out of a paper bag. I am not highly skilled in any chess opening, but I have a cocktail-party knowledge of hundreds of them.
The Small Center System, being rather a non-entity in its own right, turns, like a chameleon, into other strategems. One might look up and find oneself in a French, in a Benoni, an Old Indian or in an Alekhine's defense-like formation. No chess player can study all the openings into which the Small Center System may transpose. But I have studied many of them, poorly, and it makes a perfect weapon for me. Opponents set up intense, strong pawn centers, and would-be crippling attacks. Twenty five moves later, my little Logo turtle is grabbing a pawn and pressing towards victory.

Last night after a losing streak while playing "good" openings, I won game after game with the absurd little Small Center System. I guess sometimes the best offense is a good defense.

I should say that I am the least skilled player of my rating alive,
but the reality is that I am surprisingly dogged. I do not pretend that I am better than I am. I play the game for fun, but I take my lack of genius seriously. I actually try to ward off defeat when I am at my best, because I respect my opponent's ability to inflict it.

Lately I have seen tenacity rewarded in my professional life in ways too dreary for most to weblog. I have always thought that a "guess what I won this month" weblog by an attorney would be particularly unenlightening, because lawyers are far too vain to post "guess what I lost today". Suffice it to say that I am really busy now, but practice seems quite energizing.

Tonight I'll go home, driving through darkness while NPR talks to me about something. My wife has a charming high school friend in town, whom I'll enjoy seeing. Then I'll turn on my shortwave, and slip into darkness. I am not master of the darkness, entirely, but if I pursue my own arcane strategies, perhaps I can cruise through it unimpaired.

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