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Chess - a Gentleman's Game

A dignified and intellectual game, it is to be played in a respectable manner.

Article contribution by Rodney Taylor

Nowadays the concept of a gentleman is misconstrued and does not garner the respect it deserves. Instead, lauded are gangsterism and the thug persona. Degrading a woman or addressing her derogatively is the norm rather than holding a door open for her or pulling out her chair. If a woman wears something “sexy” she is harangued with lude comments. In the minds of many men, a woman who is dressed like this is a promiscuous Jezebel. Could it be that she simply wants to look and feel beautiful and have her beauty appreciated? Furthermore, is she not just doing what society expects of her by dressing according to the standard it has set?

Yet the thuggish misogynists subject her to harsh vulgarities, hypocritically stereotyping her. The gentlemanly thing to do would be to compliment her in word and deed and show her that she is appreciated. But as I have already mentioned, many men today do not understand the concept of being a gentleman and do not even truly know what the word means.

A gentleman is one whose conduct is attuned to a high standard of propriety – correct behavior. He possesses chivalric qualities, meaning he is honest, generous, and courteous and generally considerate of others. He is in conformity with what is socially acceptable in conduct and speech and refrains from going against the conventional rules of behavior in a polite society. These are the characteristics of a gentleman. Unfortunately, in today’s world these principles and morals are neglected; at least by a large number of the male population.

The principles of a gentleman must be re-established, the minds of these confused men enlightened, the societal norms of uprightness adhered to lest we continue to decay morally. This is of the utmost importance to both the preservation and advancement of our humanity. To begin, we need only look within and reflect on our proclivity for moral correctness.

I think a gentleman is someone who holds the comfort of other people above their own. The instinct to do that is inside every good man, I believe. The rules about opening the door and buying dinner and all that other ‘gentleman’ stuff is a game of chess, especially these days.

Anna Kendrick

Still, there are men who hold fast to the high moral standard of a gentleman. Among them are chess players. At its conception, the game of chess was indulged in only by royalty and nobility, people who represented and dictated the standards of sophistication and intellectuality observed in society. A game that requires mental vigor, the concentration of intention, and the faculty of calculation, chess was not popular among the general populace which consisted mostly of lower class peoples and was considered above their station – beyond their comprehension.

When players convened for a game of chess it was often a formal affair at which people gathered to observe. The players exchanged pleasantries with a handshake and then the game would begin. There would be silence throughout the venue amongst both spectators and players save for the announcement of check, checkmate, or some other utterance pertaining to the game. It is considered bad form for a player to harass or attempt to distract their opponent in any way. A dignified and intellectual game, it is to be played in a respectable manner.

Today the same manner of etiquette is required of chess players even though the demographic of people who play has changed, varying from young to old, wealthy to average, dispelling all notions of intellectual prowess belonging only to the affluent. However, there are many who have bastardized the game with cavalier etiquette some of which can be attributed to roguish mentalities. As a result, they are not playing chess in its truest form, regardless of their skill level. The chess purist, on the other hand, maintains the proper standard of the game and it is exemplified in their personal life.

Picture: Daniel Craig

Chess is a game for gentlemen, men of exemplary character. All of the great players – even the eccentric Bobby Fischer fit this mold. They personified the theory of chess being very much like life. To this point, I think it is ironic that chessist Larry Evans noted how Bobby Fischer died at the age of sixty-four, the same number of squares on the chessboard. Is it possible Bobby’s connection to the game was so deep that he did not want to live beyond it? After all, he had stopped competing, a shock to the world. Yet there was no doubt that he loved the game.

Let us consider a person who deviates from their true nature. They adopt beliefs and practices that contradict who they are or what they are actually capable of doing, and thus descend to a sort of savage state. Conversely, a gentleman is one who stands firm on righteousness and is genuinely concerned about the well-being of others. His personal wants and needs are secondary to what is good for everyone.

I have heard it said that a man is not one who does what he wants to do but rather what he “must” do. I believe the game of chess cultivates this type of mentality in that it demonstrates the mechanics of the conformity to rules and structure as well as the importance of reflection and analysis. Two of its bedrock principles are, “think b4 you move” and “focus on making your next best move.” These principles are readily applicable to real life situations. A person should always think b4 they act because it reduces the possibility of error. Also, one should always strive to take the best course of action because it is conducive to success.

Oftentimes, life is likened to a game at which some people win and some lose. Likewise, chess is akin to life. However, in chess, a gentleman always wins, even when he loses the game itself because he benefits from the experience. This man is gracious both in victory and defeat; at the chessboard and in life.


I have always thought you could take the measure of a man by his sports manners – that is to say, the way in which he conducts himself on the playing field, or even over a game of chess or cards.Gradydon Carter

Picture: Historias de Ajedrez

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