A Grandmaster in chess is the highest achieavable title.

Becoming a master of the game of chess is no easy task. It requires years of perseverance and determination to accomplish. While most Americans feel like they know how to play the game, only a handful truly understands the complexities of the board. A chess board consists of 64 squares, half of which are black, and half of which are white. The board can be dissected into multiple locations of importance. Controlling the center, the King-side or the Queen-side, or even the white colored squares can tip the balance of the board into one’s favor. And understanding how each individual piece plays a role in the game can change tide of a battle.

I’ve spent many years playing the game of chess. I first learned at the age of five, when my father bought me a chess set. Of course at these early stages I struggled to out maneuver my father who had many years experience. But he continued to teach me. First how to move the pieces, a rook moves straight, up and down, left or right.  A bishop moves diagonally, always staying on the same color. A knight is a bit trickier, moving in “L” shapes. A knight moves straight two squares and then hops one square to the left or right. Alternatively it can move straight one square, and then hop two to the left or right. The knight also can jump over pieces. The pawn can move one square forward at all times, unless there is a piece in front of it. It can also move two squares forward if it is the first time it has moved that game. The pawn is the only piece that attacks differently than it moves. While pawns move straight, they can capture pieces diagonally one square away. Kings can move one square in any direction, while queens can move as many squares in one direction as they can reach.

After I learned how to move the pieces, I had to understand WHERE to move the pieces to gain advantage.] I learned how to control the center of the board, with supporting pieces laying the groundwork. Controlling the center allows you to gain space, and cramp your opponent into a box. I learned how to castle, a unique maneuver that allows your king and a rook to move simultaneously. The king moves two squares towards the rook, and the rook hops over to the other side. The castling maneuver can only be done if neither piece has moved yet, and cannot be done if the king is in check, moving through a square under attack, and cannot move into check. Castling protects the king, and also helps develop pieces on the board. Protecting the king at all costs while capturing the opponent’s in the objective of the game, something even a five-year-old can understand and yet something that is difficult to do even as a Grandmaster depending on their opponent.

I’ve read about 100 books on how to play better chess in all aspects of the game. I’ve traveled across the country to compete in national tournaments. I’ve studied the game with masters, and have played against the best. It took years to understand the fundamentals, even longer to understand the complexities. But I can now call myself an expert in the game of chess. For about a decade I’ve taught chess lessons to others. But even now I am no master of the game. While I may be in the top 10,000 chess players in America, I have yet to achieve the title of Grandmaster. So while my success is a great achievement, I am still persevering to become better. But someday I will accomplish this dream, for I am determined. While I understand the importance of “en passant” (A chess term that is French for in-passing) I will have to spend many more years to learn how to beat the ten Grand Masters required to even begin qualifying for that title.