Some of you will be aware that I give the answer ‘Chess’ when asked for my favourite sport. A good game between two well-matched players can be exhausting and exhilarating – a literal battle of minds in which tensions can and often do run very high. I have been to large theatres to watch world champions play live (the board is displayed on a large screen on stage to help everyone see) and sometimes the tension of the mental battle on stage is so great that audience members, and even players, have to leave quietly to find some mental diversion in order to relieve the nervous strain.
I receive a daily email from usefulchess.com featuring a summary of top level chess news from around the world. At the moment there is an exhibition match between two giant players in the Chess world – Caruana and Nakamura, with a prize fund of $100,000.
Fabiano Luigi Caruana (born 30 July 1992) is an Italian-American chess grandmaster, former chess prodigy, and at various times the No. 2 ranked player in the world. On 15 July 2007 Caruana became a grandmaster (GM) at the age of 14 years, 11 months, 20 days—the youngest grandmaster in the history of both Italy and the United States (his US record was beaten in October 2009 by Ray Robson). In October 2014, he achieved an Elo rating of 2844, becoming the third highest rated player in history (behind No. 1 Carlssen and No. 2 Kasparov). [Source: Wikipedia]
Hikaru Nakamura (中村光 Nakamura Hikaru), born December 9, 1987) is a Japanese-born American chess grandmaster. In 2003, at age 15 years and 79 days, Nakamura solidified his reputation as a chess prodigy, becoming the youngest American to earn the grandmaster title, breaking the record of Bobby Fischer by three months. His current ELO rating of 2816 marks him the 7th highest rated player in history. [Source: Wikipedia]
Fischer himself was an American chess prodigy, an eccentric who dominated the world chess scene in the 60s and 70s. One of his contributions to the game was ‘Fischer Random Chess’, in which the back row of chess pieces is randomised so that it appears in an unpredictable order at the start of the game. Caruana and Nikamura, according to my daily email, are currently engaged in a series of ‘Fischer Random’ games as part of their exhibition match.
The fact that Fischer Random chess is so random throws most preparation and theory out of the window, and means it is extremely difficult to get one’s head around the best way to marshall the troops (pieces) in order to press home an attack to victory.
It struck me that we like to anticipate and plan for much of what the future will hold. We assume, if you like, that all the pieces in our chess game are going to be set up in a predictable way. We then assume that we can proceed as planned, with our various insurance policies, mortgage repayment schemes, pension budgeting, health care provision and so on. Sometimes, however, to our dismay, we turn up to play the day’s game and find chaos – an unexpected bereavement, perhaps, or a redundancy, a health scare, a family crisis – this list goes on. Then we realise that we should not be depending on our own strength, but on God’s – who will provide for us and guide us through life even when, and especially when, life throws up its random surprises. The Apostle Paul reached this conclusion in these words below.
Phil. 4:5-13 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.