The world as seen through the clarifying lens of the 9th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1875-1889).

Thursday, 6 November 2008

39. Mental perturbations and the emergencies of intellectual combat


I am indebted to the kind and indiscriminate praise of Chessbumbus for reminding me of the ninth edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica's very fine article on the subject of the game of kings. W. Norwood Porter's introduction is a masterly opening, and be you not stricken by obstinacy, indolence, or self-esteem, you should find it instructive, and a balm to the troubles of your cerebral organ.

CHESS, simply defined, is an intellectual pastime. It recreates not so much by way of amusement properly sо termed, аs by taking possession of the mental faculties and diverting them from their accustomed grooves. The cerebral organ, after being much occupied in business, or greatly worried by cares, or in any way beset by painful reflections, finds in the absorbing and abstracting properties of chess that temporary relief which lighter pastimes will not always afford. The reason of this is not far to seek. Cares are caused by looking forward to or apprehending things to come, and, as such, are neutralized by that foresight which the conduct of a game of chess demands. Again, mental perturbations, however much varied, can but be the employment of the imagining and reasoning faculties in the digestion of the particular cause of annoyance or pain ; but these same faculties are required, and their exclusive exercise demanded, in providing for the emergencies of the intellectual combat, and in solving the ever varying problems that arise in the course thereof. It is very commonly supposed that chess is a difficult game, whether to acquire or practise. This, however, is a mistake. The moves may be learned in half an hour, and a week's practice will evoke a sufficient amount of skill to afford pleasure both to the learner and his tutor. The intelligent novice will soon be convinced that an ignorant manipulation of the pieces does not conduce to success, and he will seek for instruction in the right manner of opening the game ; the various débuts are after all simple, and he will find no difficulty in acquiring them one after the other. Six months will suffice for this purpose if his understanding be not enslaved by obstinacy, indolence, or self-esteem, and the rest goes with his natural capacity. A merely average intelligence is sufficient for a very fair amount of proficiency and strength ; while intellect not much above the common mean will suffice (assuming here natural aptitude) to lead right up to the second class of players, viz., those to whom the masters of the game can only concede tho small odds of "pawn and move." Those wishing to improve will find it very beneficial to play upon even terms with players stronger than themselves ; for a persistence in taking odds, besides having a discouraging and debilitating effect upon the weaker player, takes the game out of its proper grooves, and tends to produce positions not naturally arising in the ordinary course of the game as developed from the recognized openings. In fact, the reception of odds incapacitates a player from acquiring an insight into the principles of the science of chess, and from comprehending the latent meanings and conceptions upon which combinations and a proper plan of warfare are founded ; while, upon the contrary, playing on even terms throws the combatant at once upon his own judgment, and by causing him to study his opponent's play, leads necessarily to a material improvement in his own style."

I must confess that the the old cerebral organ experienced difficulty with the sentence : Again, mental perturbations, however much varied, can but be the employment of the imagining and reasoning faculties in the digestion of the particular cause of annoyance or pain ; but these same faculties are required, and their exclusive exercise demanded, in providing for the emergencies of the intellectual combat, and in solving the ever varying problems that arise in the course thereof.

But I liked it very much.

1 comment:

Adam James Nall said...

Very interesting idea you have here, friend. Just thought I'd leave a comment to say thank you for the favourable link on the right: 'inspired etymological ramblings' pretty much hits the nail on the head!

With thanks,

AJN
http://adamjamesnall.blogspot.com/

p.s. I've just posted a new De Factoid if interested. A