Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess

The death of Bobby Fischer on Thursday reminded me of the only chess book I ever read. I was just out of grad school and working in the DoD as a cryptologic mathematician. The NSA employed scores of us geeks and many of us had an interest in chess. We often played speed chess during our lunch breaks. Those matches became quite intense as we desperately longed for our opponent's flag to fall, even as we willed our chess clock flag to miraculously stay up. We even drew crowds! Unbelievable, I know, but you have to understand the subculture you are dealing with. At any rate, chess had always been something I was good at and enjoyed, but now it was getting serious. A friend of mine lent me his copy of Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess and my play instantly improved as I incorporated moves and strategies that I learned from Bobby Fischer.

With that success, I made my way to a local bookstore fully intending to start a library of chess books. I wanted to learn the openings and ways to exploit the mistakes of opponents who didn’t know the openings as well as I. I wanted to develop sophisticated strategies for the development of my pieces, learn how to force my opponents into weak positions, and identify fool-proof end-game maneuvers. I was going to become a grand master, or at least come close.

But as I looked at those books and contemplated the time and commitment involved in reaching the pinnacle of chess playing, I began to wonder what I wanted to give my life to. I was single, didn’t have any family obligations. I could have invested the time and money to become really good. As I was thinking on these things the Lord began to convict me regarding the overall goals of my life. I realized that being great at chess is an OK accomplishment but there is so much more to life than chess. I really felt that the Lord wanted me to give my life over to learning about Him rather than learning about chess.

Today, I have hundreds of books about God and the Bible and not one about chess. I think about Bobby Fischer and what he gave his life to and how his life ended. He was the greatest in the world. And now what? That day in a bookstore in Columbia, MD, I made a decision by God’s grace that I wouldn’t go down that road and I am so thankful. I still enjoy playing chess when I get the chance but I enjoy learning about Christ and His unsearchable riches so much more.


At 10:35 PM, Blogger Don Johnson said...

Hi Andy

We are back home again, after a grueling 36 hours of travel...

Your post caught my eye, since Fischer's book is also the only chess book I ever read. I learned a lot about the game from that book.

Over the years, though, as Bobby Fischer made headlines for his bizarre behaviour, I came to similar conclusions as you did. The Unsearchable Riches are much more precious than gold, or anything else this world offers.

Praise the Lord for his grace. May more see the same.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Glad you made it back safely. It's snowing today and we're not sure what we are going to do about church tomorrow. It's a good thing you didn't have to travel here this weekend.

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Chris Anderson said...

I didn't comment on this when it was posted, Andy, but I appreciated it. The choice for things eternal is obvious now, but I know that there are times when it is far from clear, especially when in the throes of the decision. What a blessing to look back with delight and gratitude and not regret. Praise the Lord.


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