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When the teacher who ran the chess club at school retired, I took up the mantle. All the chess sets, boards and books moved into my room. We run a very casual club. Occasionally we take trips to other schools to play in tournaments. The most recent tournament took place on a Saturday in a town at the other end of Loch Ness.
This particular tournament set no age limits. A small seven year old boy might find himself seated opposite a strapping sixteen year old girl. Beginners might find themselves playing against experts. Each player accumulated a score through a number of rounds. Some of the games were over quickly, as the experts strutted their stuff on the chess boards. Between games there were spare chess sets to practise on, and a football to kick around if you preferred.
One of the older girls was often the last to finish each of her games, and her opponent always had a good selection of captured pieces. She went on to win the tournament.
When asked why she took so long to play her matches, she explained that she did not want her opponents to feel that they had been easily beaten and become so discouraged that they eventually stop playing chess altogether. Once she realised that she could beat her opponent, particularly with the beginners, rather than end the match as quickly as possible, she allowed her pieces to get captured. Games that ended too quickly disheartened the looser, so she deliberately allowed them a few small victories. She knew that she would win in the end and could afford to give up some of her pieces.
I was challenged by her attitude. We all have the desire to win but do not often consider feelings of person that loses. Sometimes we are too ruthless in how we live our lives, not allowing ourselves to give up our "pieces" that others might have their victories too.
"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out." (Isaiah 42:3)