The Psychology of Chess
chess pieces

1)  Composition
based on something Gary Kasparov once said
Chess is meant to be a game where chance
is never king. But, be that as it may,
one feels quite different sitting down to play.
Of course, it’s true I make the pieces dance
the way I want, but now I’m left with so
few choices. Should I castle left or right?
Arts are for farts. I’ve got to keep things tight.                 
Where might I land a devastating blow?
Composition brooks no oversight.
Takes, takes, takes. I must be cynical,
place myself in my opponent’s shoes,
simultaneously be black and white.
With such a single-minded, clinical
performance, I should win. And then I lose.
2)  Deception
Sergio Negri, “Nabokov looks at chess as deception”
I play the odd game of it, suicide chess.
Think how to lose, and you’ll be a success.
A whole new perspective’s both healthy and fun,
good chess puzzles those where there’s no more than one
combination that works, but the way they turn out
should give us occasion to entertain doubt;
always to question: Might well-trodden ground
contain subtle sequences yet to be found?
A pawn may look weak, but she’s only pretending,
certain of strolling towards that transcending
element giggling just round the corner.
Of course, reason says we’d be stupid to scorn her.
Deception is key to both nature and art.
Nabokov thought so. Not bad for a start.

3)  Competition
after Richard Fenton
A grandmaster means trouble: he coolly combines
man and machine; in a twinkle he guesses
that you’ve been dissecting his recent pet lines.
Will he bask in the glow of his well-earned successes?
Take time out to muse? You can bet that he won’t.
Back to you, no doubt hellbent on suddenly wrecking
a winning advantage, just praying you don’t
move one of your pieces without double-checking.
At heart, it’s a matter of pure competition;
chess is no different from snooker or poker.
Will you be able to weigh the position?
Pick a new card, and… by Jove! it’s the joker!
A chance in the tiebreak. You hear someone cough,
pocket the black, watch the white go in off.
4)  Detention
after Aaron Nimzowitsch
The day will come when it hits you: Tomorrow’s
passed already. You’ll start sleeping rough,
pawn your possessions, learn a lot of stuff
is nothing but a cache of crazy sorrows,
a token of your imminent decay.
Criminal the way the young aren’t told
that they can choose, ridiculous that old
should be the yardstick for the present day.
Be bold and break the mould! Don’t be controlled,
kept in detention, singled out for grief,
under the sway of yesterday’s mistake.
Lock up your worries, spurn the Greek gift, gold,
and run away to sea! Daring’s the chief
key to success. That, and staying awake.

Duncan Gillies MacLaurin

If you have any thoughts on this poem,  Duncan Gillies MacLaurin would be pleased to hear them.