The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #86: Chess

General Introduction
– Facebook official
– No listener feedback—so write us!
– The Christian Dilettante Podcast

Our Own Experience With Chess
– Michial’s great victory
– David’s Duplo set
– On losing to children
– The aesthetics of chess
– Battle Chess
– Nathan the would-be grandmaster

The Chess Manual: A History
– But first, a Princess Bride joke
– The repetition of love
– Standard openings
– Fashioning a gentleman
– How to win without cheating

Wit and Chance
– Complication
– Fortuna can be kind
– Man or machine

Literary Chess
– The Hardy Boys find a missing trophy
– Chess on Mars
– Eliot’s multifoliate game at chess
– Vonnegut makes a truly awful opponent
– Nathan talks about The Wire again
– People we left out

In Soviet Russia, Chess Plays You!
– Subsidizing chess
– Kasparov as populist hero
– Bobby Fischer

The Game of Kings
– The lesson of the USSR
– David advocates for Risk
– Machiavelli ignores the game
– The true game of kings
– CHU curriculum

15 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #86: Chess

  1. Here I was, all set to invoke MacIntyre in favor of adding chess to the core, and y’all beat me to it!
    Anyway, if what we’re looking for is the cultivation of the abilities to adapt to others’ actions, size up situations, think strategically and quickly, and handle the effects of chance, then the activity which we should include in the core is… swordfighting.  Both Luther and Zwingli considered training in weapons vital to Christian education.  George Silver said in 1599 that training in weapons “gives a perfect judgment, it expels melancholy, choleric and evil conceits, it keeps a man in breath, perfect health, and long life… it makes him bold, hardy and valiant”.  And, not to toot my own horn too much, I argue in a 2009 article in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts that the martial arts fit perfectly within MacIntyre’s definition of a eudaimonic practice.
    Lay on, MacDuff!

    1. Charles H And I can attest, from experience, that fencing is in its execution remarkably similar to chess. I have fenced off and on for a few years (Modern European style), and let me tell you, speed and agility doth not a great fencer make; sizing up an opponent, finding their weakness, and exploiting it when the moment is right is what wins matches. Its chess, but faster! Plus, it’s one of the more enjoyable activities one can pursue.

      1. superfriar
        Agreed.  When I was living in Ontario, I trained with the Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts, focusing on the system developed by Fiore dei Liberi in 1410.  There is something about standing opposite someone who is about to try and hit you with a (blunt but still pain-inducing) sword that makes you very… trying to think of the best way to put it… “aware”… or maybe “present in the moment” in connection to your opponent.  Psychologist Blaine Fowers describes phronesis (practical wisdom) in terms of quickly and effectively perceiving the essential elements of a situation, the goal to be pursued, and the best way to pursue it.  That sounds an awful lot like the process of sizing up your opponent and acting decisively at the right moment to score the “hit”.

      2. There are a few chapters on modern fencing in the recently-published book “Martial Arts and Philosophy: Beating and Nothingness” (2010, Open Court).  The authors mention some of the same points that you do.

  2. Oh yeah, and if you find Battlechess free online, please post a link!  I have fond memories of watching those little critters slaughter each other in amusing ways.

  3. Very interesting and well done, thanks for another good episode. My dad and uncle were both college chess club gurus, and so I have been playing the game since I was 6 due to their influence, though I haven’t played regularly in a looong time. In a strange coincidence, I am also named after John Carter of Mars (my first and middle names are Carter John), so I appreciated the Barsoom reference. I would hasten to add a comment about Star Trek’s 3-dimensional chess (so called), which I have yet to play. A note about chess tactics that I always found interesting is the general disdain most people have for pawns, while many decent chess players I know will cite them as the most important piece; in fact, my uncle makes a newbie train for chess by playing with only pawns first. Perception is important, it would seem.

  4. superfriar gives me a thought: would anyone be interested in getting some friendly Christian Humanist chess going on chess.com?  I’ve got an account on chess.com (my user name is nathanpgilmour if I remember right), and I’d be glad to give anyone a punching bag on a three-day-per-move, correspondence game.

  5. Finally listened to this episode… what, no mention of Chess, the 80’s rock musical?  I thought for sure Gilmour would invoke this quintessentially 80’s musical melange.  As one who was a sophomore in high school when Murray Head’s version of One Night in Bangkok came out – it was the one hit song from the production – I can’t think of my young days playing chess without calling this song and its line “..the ulimate test of cerebral fitness…”  to mind 🙂

  6. Todd Pedlar I’ve never heard of it, but just looking at the YouTube still below makes me curious.
    Also, one happy result of this episode was the beginning of an ongoing (and uninterrupted) eleven-month chess marathon with listener Charles Hackney.  I don’t have the premium chess.com membership, so I don’t know how many games we’ve played, but we’re close enough in ability that every game is up for grabs.  I’m certainly a better chess player than I was a year ago.

  7. ngilmour Todd Pedlar ah – I play mostly on gameknot.com but I think I have a chess.com account…. (yup, username drquantum) … I’m open any time for a match if you’d like. 🙂

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