September 29, 1998

I have never been a good loser, truthfully I am a miserably bad loser. This does not bother me, in fact, not being a good loser is a virtue in my book. I feel that good losers are, well, losers. What satisfaction can I draw from beating a "good loser?" Only the relief of not losing to one.

I tend to put myself in situations where I usually win, thus losing is an ephemeral condition in my life. Until lately. Lately, circumstances have conspired to inundate me with defeat, and it is breaking me down. I find myself alone in my room, challenging an anonymous acquaintance to some battle of wits, some rhetorical contest, always in full view of dozens of important people. In this solitary verbal combat, I am always in the right, I always take the moral high ground, my opponent's argument and acumen pitifully impotent in the face of my awesome intellect and powers of reason.

I learned chess at an early age, and have picked it up at various times in my life, usually to put it aside within a month as other interests reliably climb above chess on my priority ladder. Recently, however, chess has kept my interest and I have been playing often. This is a problem, firstly because it provides yet another avenue for procrastination, but more importantly I am quite bad at this game and I lose constantly. On top of this rash of failure, my most important outlet for victory, basketball, has simultaneously been erased by an ankle injury, leaving me without pillars of success to buttress my house, slowly crumbling in defeat.

This work of some evil genius reached its nadir tonight. After being thrashed by three consecutive chess opponents, I was violent with rage. What makes chess the best game is that there is no element of chance. The rules are simple, and the pieces lie between the opponents, in full view. It is this inherent openness and equality of the game that ironically obliterates the actual board and pieces from the competition; what remains is only you and him - antagonism cleansed of its usual pollutants: rivalry distilled. [An interesting tangent to this point is demonstrated by the awesome spectacle of blind chess, where a board and pieces are not used, the players merely announcing their respective moves]

This feature of chess, while lending the game its appeal, also amplifies the magnitude of winning and losing. There are no bad bounces in chess, no unfortunate rolls of the dice, no wrong guesses. When you lose, it is only your self that is doing the losing; there is no other way to lose a game of chess other than your opponent being better than you. What this means in practical terms is that after I lose three consecutive games of chess, the inferiority implied in these losses clashes with the carefully guarded presupposition that I am talented, destined for fame, etc. This conflict manifests itself in the previously described verbal altercations with furniture, among other acts of ego autoinflation.

So tonight I conjured up the usual inept adversary, helpless and pathetic versus my immaculately conceived (but spontaneous!) logic. In the midst of my particularly fierce verbal lashing, however, I felt a weakness in my position. The intensity and confidence in my voice waned, and my filibuster dissolved. The gallery was silent. As my eyes helplessly searched the floor for redemption, I felt the calm, confident stare of my previously timid opponent. There he left me...once again defeated, alone in my room, praying for an orthopedic miracle.