secret life, there are touchstones. Ideas, phrases, facts, and notions I
refer to time and time again -- as often as I would consult a map when
traveling. Among these treasures is a story from the world of chess.
that during an international competition many years ago, a man named Frank
Marshall made what is often called the most beautiful move ever made on a
chessboard. In a crucial game in which he was evenly matched with a
Russian master player, Marshall found his queen under serious attack.
There were several avenues of escape, and since the queen is the most important
offensive player, the spectators assumed Marshall would observe convention and
move his queen to safety.
Deep in thought, Marshall used all the time available to him to consider the
board conditions. He picked up his queen -- paused -- and placed it down
on the most illogical square of all -- a square from which the queen could be
captured by any one of three hostile pieces.
had sacrificed his queen -- an unthinkable move, to be made only in the most
desperate of circumstances.
spectators and Marshall's opponent were dismayed.
Then the Russian and the crowd realized that Marshall had actually made a
brilliant move. It was clear that no matter how the queen was taken, his
opponent would soon be in a losing position. Seeing the inevitable defeat,
the Russian conceded the game.
When the spectators recovered from the shock of Marshall's daring, they showered
the chessboard with money. Marshall had achieved victory in a rare and
daring fashion -- he had won by sacrificing his queen.
To me, it's
not important that he won.
Not even important that he actually made the queen-sacrifice move.
What counts is that Marshall had suspended standard thinking long enough even to
entertain the possibility of such a move.
Marshall had looked outside the traditional and orthodox patterns of play and
had been willing to consider an imaginative risk on the basis of his judgment
and his judgment alone. No matter how the game ended, Marshall was the
that story countless times.
And on the checklist of operating instructions for my life, this phrase appears:
"Time to sacrifice the queen?"
from Maybe (Maybe Not : Second Thoughts from a Secret Life),
by Robert Fulghum