Embracing conflict central to game
Saturday December 1, 2012 5:46 AM
By Shelby Lyman
Emanuel Lasker, who reigned as world champion for 27 years (1894-1921), was convinced that most of mankind “loves a good fight.”
That instinct was, he thought, the essence of our humanity.
His games illustrate the bias.
Lasker insisted that whoever had the advantage must attack. “Only he who follows this ethical law,” he said, “can become an artist. He who does not becomes nothing.”
According to Vassily Smyslov, also a world champion: “Lasker never got up from the board and fought with enormous energy.”
Lasker compared the notion of a good fight to a philosophical principle. His monograph Struggle places the phenomenon at the center of human existence.
Inescapably, modern chess and other games present an increasingly intense battleground.
In the physical sports, the competitors are bigger, stronger and faster — and probably cleverer.
In both the physical sports and chess, computers increasingly raise the bar of performance.
Is that particular intensification of struggle a reflection of human nature in general and of modern life in particular? Is chess a touchstone of our times?