Ben Franklin (1706 – 1790) is an amazingly interesting character! He made tremendous contributions to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. He also invented the lightening rod, bifocals and the wood stove. One of his favorite pastimes was Chess. Here’s what he had to say about it…
The Morals of Chess
The game of chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors and adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence of want of it.
By playing at chess then, we may learn:
1) Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action; for it is continually occurring to the player, “if I move this piece, what will be the advantages of my situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and defend myself from his attacks?
2) Circumspection, which surveys the whole chess board or scene of action, the relations of several pieces and situations, the dangers they are respectively exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other, the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move and attack this or the other piece; and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn the consequences against him.
3) Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game, such as, if you touch a piece you must move it somewhere; if you set it down you must let it stand. And it is therefore best that these rules be observed, as the game thereby becomes more the image of human life, and particularly of war in which, if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops and place them more securely but you must abide all the consequences of your rashness.
Once kids get old enough, Chess is a great game to play with them. When they’re first learning, spot them a few pieces. That is, begin the game leaving off a queen and a rook on your side. Do your best to beat them with that handicap and you’ll have fun even against the most inexperienced opponent. As they get better, spot them less, maybe just a knight or a bishop. Eventually, they’ll be able to play you even, and that’s a great feeling. Nothing makes a parent prouder than losing a game of Chess to their young child!
January 17th is Franklin’s 300th birthday. Happy Birthday Ben!
This article was posted on Monday, January 16th, 2006 at 10:31 pm and is filed under Authors, Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, Chess, Countries & Cultures, Games Around the World, People, The Morals of Chess, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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