Chess, Soups and Life

What do chess and cooking have in common? Admittedly, not much. However, at the height of a hard-fought game of chess, one good move can often tip the balance. Such moves have an effect over the whole of the chessboard and enable all the player’s pieces to function in perfect harmony, whereas the opponent’s pieces are, all of a sudden, in disarray. In cooking it is also often one ingredient that brings harmony to all the flavors. It is the power of the single move, the single ingredient and the single right choice bringing harmony to the whole, which chess, cooking and life have in common.

When cooking a soup, a lack of salt may not only result in a weak salt flavor. It may also mean a weak flavor of the other spices. Adding salt to the soup, then, not only enhances the salty taste of the soup, it brings to the fore the flavors of all the other spices. In this way, a certain harmony is brought to the soup.

In the same way, sometimes, all that is needed is one good move to make a particular scheme work in chess. Irrespective of what course of action a player opts for, his most important task may be to find that one good move which justifies his course of action. This one good move may come at the beginning, the middle or the end of the player’s scheme, but its power is such that it will justify all the following, preceding, or following and preceding, moves.

Sometimes, neither cooking nor chess is this simple. Perhaps it may be necessary to increase the quantity of several spices to get that right taste of the soup. In the same way, it may be necessary to manoeuvre several pieces to new locations before harmony between the pieces is reached.

Nevertheless, the principle of the one good move and the one right ingredient is something which I keep in mind when I play chess and cook soups. I find it helpful to see if this simple solution is enough, before I ponder the more complicated possibilities.

Likewise, in life itself, sometimes a complicated situation can be solved by a single right choice which brings harmony into the picture. A single act of kindness can remedy a tense situation, an act of humility can resolve an argument. Like in chess and cooking, sometimes a single good act or a single right choice is not enough to restore harmony in our lives. Sometimes the situation requires many right choices and many acts of goodness. Then, the patience of the perfectionist cook and the methodological chessplayer needs to be applied to life.


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