I am an avid chess player. I play at least two games a day and more on my days off. I’m not a blitz player, I just don’t think fast enough for those short, very fast games. What I do love are games with time controls that will allow a game to go for a couple hours. I enjoy few things more than sinking into a nice long 15 or 20 minute think while mulling over the position on the chess board. Running through the different variations of a possible move, or trying to decide which piece move is better when both look good, or which pawn to take with, or should I move the rook on f1 to d1 or should it be the rook on a1 to d1.
Yes, I am a dork. I’m so much of a chess dork that I regularly listen to broadcasts of top flight chess tournaments that are broad-casted by the on-line chess club I belong to. These shows will have grand master chess players giving commentary on the game(s) and I will set there and listen to the entire show, keep in mind some of these games can take up to 7 hours to play. Sometimes when discussing a position that looks like it might be coming to a draw the commentators will start talking about whether they think one or both of the players can make progress in their respective position’s. What they mean is if they think both players have no way to improve their positons then it is most likely that the game will be drawn, but if it looks like one or both players have ways to improve their positions then they start talking about who can improve better and most likely will win. This idea of improvement is called progress. Can one or both players make progress? That is often the question being put the position on the board.
I was walking back to the restaurant the other day while thinking about this idea of progress in chess and started to wonder how it translates to the restaurant; after all, running a restaurant and playing chess is often very similar. I got to thinking about how we have made, and are making, progress.
Sometimes progress may be a simple pawn move, but it still is progress. Sometimes progress may be upgrading the kind of salt used, but it’s sill progress. Sometimes progress is simply cutting a few dollars off the food cost, but it’s still progress. Sometimes it seeing the new sign be hung, or a nicer paper being used for the menus, or smile of deep satisfaction on the face of a guest, but they are still progress.
The chess masters I admire the most are not the ones who can make tactical wizardry come to life and whip up amazing attacks out of nothing, but it’s the masters who can take a sleepy, quiet position and work it to a win. Sometimes a won position may take 20, 30, 40, or more moves to see the win come to fruition, and it is those masters who can stick with these games and make the magic happen. I have learned a lot from playing chess and from watching top level players play, but the one most important lesson has been to not give up when progress seems possible. To fight tooth and nail for the win or the very least a draw, no matter how bleak the position on the board may appear.
I am always looking at my life for ways to make progress; not because I’m one of these over achieving persons bent of success or excellence for sake of success or excellence, but because I see progress as hope. As long as I can continue making improvements on my position I keep playing on, and if it looks like a win is not in the cards then I start looking for ways to draw, but I only give up when the position is completely lost, and luckily for me this happens more in chess than in life.