Sun Tzu in The Art of War wrote: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
Many times I have employed the wisdom of Sun Tzu when fighting the great battles of my life.
For instance, my brother-in-law Jeff regularly engages me in a game of chess and having gone to a 27-0 lead in our friendly series, he has become intoxicated with success and adopted a slightly mocking tone.
Now, you might accept that tone from a friend, but not your brother-in-law.
So it was time to enlist the strategies of the master of war, the aforementioned Sun Tzu.
Of course, the obvious and time-honoured techniques applied.
Begin by plying your opponent with alcohol.
Next I borrowed an old Bobby Fischer tactic – the uncomfortable chair.
I happened to have at my disposal a chair that made a squeaking noise on the lino when Jeff adjusted his body weight even in the most imperceptible way.
Next – unsettling background music.
I recommend Shostakovich’s Tea for Two. It has the advantage of being weirdly familiar but also extremely jarring.
Being a classical piece, Jeff, always prone to cultural insecurities, would never complain.
I then incorporated the Machiavellian method, assuring Jeff that I was not in his class as a player and that I was just grateful for the opportunity to watch his finely-tuned mind at work.
To be honest, I saw no early signs of a weakness in Jeff’s Sicilian defence and hopes of an upset were beginning to fade.
Then, out of nowhere, Jeff began to unravel.
Somewhere in between begging for another chair and asking, “what the hell is this music?,” Jeff thoughtlessly castled without sufficient protection.
“It’s Shostakovich Jeff, aren’t you familiar with it?”
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
My rook charged down the entire length of the board.
Check! “Tut, tut, a Queen sacrifice.
“That’s bad luck Jeff… another drink?”
Yes, victory was sweet, but as Einstein suggested, mastery of chess is merely an allusion. We are all pawns in somebody’s game.