Life lessons from playing chess

Craig: Can you take me back to a point in time where you weren’t thinking about parkour? Like, give me a snapshot of Jesse, before you knew anything about parkour.

Jesse: [00:28:00] I used to play a lot of chess. I was on a chess team, when I was 9, 10, 11. Go to tournaments all the time. I really loved solving chess problems and playing the game, learning from the game, being a chess player. [00:28:30] I learned a bunch of different openings, you learn all the different moves, and all the different moves that can happen from all the different moves. And I remember meeting a guy, and he was playing in more of a style. He was playing around openings. Like, he’s trying to let someone else take the center so that he can take it back. And I was like, “Whoa, [00:29:00] that’s different. I thought you were supposed to do this other thing, that’s what I was taught. It’s totally different.”

And then I remember playing my uncle, and my uncle is a master. And I’m thinking in combinations, like, “How can I trick him in three moves?” That was my game of chess. How can I trick this person in three moves? How can I win in three moves? How can I get a piece, or a position, tempo, how can I get something in three moves. [00:29:30] And I lose every single game against my uncle.

And he was like, “I don’t know, I didn’t learn to play that way, I learned to play it positionally. I learned to pay attention to what the board is, and move positionally.” And it became a lot more abstract, but he said that to me, and I didn’t play him for a couple years. I played him again, and I won. And [00:30:00] I played him again and I lost. And I think I would still lose most games against him.

But it’s incredible to me, this idea of playing positionally. Looking at the board, not making this plan, this intention, actually, you can hold that possibility. But is each piece of it, also, helping? Is each piece of it also [00:30:30] moving towards your greater intention?

Craig: Is whole picture some unified whole?

Jesse: Yeah. And remembering that this is the small game. This is the finite game, it has an end. The goal in it is to learn something and maybe gain some connection with the person across the table. That has nothing to do with winning, that has nothing to do with trying to trick somebody, that’s a different game. That’s the finite game.

[00:31:00] The infinite game is being this chess player, being this person. What does it all contribute to the larger sense of self and who you are in the world? And that path of integration was groundbreaking for me.