Roles in Chess

Probably the best game my dad taught me when I was a kid was chess. The game was quite famous in my dad’s village. If in the afternoon I explored the alley where my grandparents live, I’d find some men were playing chess in front of their houses with cups of coffee next to them and cigarette on their mouths. I can say, it was a daily afternoon routine for the men around the village. 

Since it was very famous, he introduced me the game quite early. I was in the second grade of elementary school when he came back home with a chess board in his bag.

It was a pleasant afternoon, a perfect time for kid to play outside and get some sweat. Boys usually chose to play some sports or kite or traditional games. While the girls on the other side, usually played cooking or jump rope.

That day was quite different for me. My dad called me from distance and then asked me to sit with him on the terrace.

I remembered he barely asked me to do that, unless he wanted to tell me about something.

He sat on the floor while putting a small cup of coffee next to him. The next thing he did was opened the chess board and then started putting the pieces on the arrangement.

“Let’s play this” he said.

He began explaining the rules. He explained it step by step, so it will be easy enough for 7 years old kid to understand.

He started it by explaining the movements of each piece. “There are only 7 types of piece, and each piece has the ability to kill the king. Easy isn’t it?”, he asked me.

I raised my eyebrow. I had a feeling it won’t be as easy as it sounds. 

“Well let’s learn while we play. White takes the first move.” he started moving his pawn.

It was quite confusing at first, but I can fully remember all the basic movements on the third game. 

“Well, it’s not that hard. Isn’t it?” he asked me again with a little bit of smile this time. He then sipped the coffee which only one-fourth left in the glass.

“Easy peasy”, I replied.

“Well that’s for today then, we’ll learn the next thing tomorrow”, he gulped the remaining coffee in his glass.


The lesson kept going on, one stage after another, from the special moves, basic traps, and checkmate tricks.

I found it a fun game. Complicated, yet a challenging game.

My dad played it fair enough to be the opponent of a second grade student. He was not so difficult to defeat so that I’d be frustrated, but he also didn’t put it so easy so I still had to think hard to beat him.

I started developing my interest toward this game. I asked everyone in my surrounding to play chess with me, my mom, my uncles, my extended family to play with me.

My mom who was more frequent to stay at home was forced by me to learn the game. She was not as good as my dad to play chess. The game was not so popular in her village. So she learnt the game together with me.

I liked to play with her. She was relatively a match opponent with me, unless my dad sat together with us, and I always knew he’d choose my mom’s side and helped her to win the game.

I was always angry when he helped my mom to develop the strategy. In some occasions, I sobbed after my dad helped my mom to win the game. I felt it so unfair to play against two well matured people. While the truth was, I just loved the feeling when I beat someone on the game. 


Later when I was better at playing chess, all in my mind was to capture every opponent’s pieces on the board. No matter black or white piece that I played, all I had in mind was to develop my pieces to capture the opponent’s pieces as soon as possible. Capture them one by one until what’s left is only the king.

That day, I remember, I still hardly won the game against my dad. I didn’t know what happened, he could just turned the table even though I thought I was on the winning side. 

He then gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Every game has a role, you need to understand your role before you play the game. In this game, white pieces always move first, and the black pieces answer the white’s move.” he paused for awhile.

I kept silence as I was curious what’s wrong with my strategy. 

“That means,” he continued, “white always win one step ahead of the black. Therefore, it is crucial for black to secure their position first before they switch into an attacking game. Your role is to build a good defensive line first.”

“So the black can’t attack?” I replied in protest.

“No, I’m surely not saying that.” 

After awhile he started talking again.

“What I’m saying is, black can only attack when they already has a firm defense. Because no matter how many pieces the black has captured, it will be nothing if it gets checkmated first.”

I remained silent as I tried to swallow all the things he just said.

“Fulfill your primary role first, before you play another role” he tried to sum up everything he just said.

“Fulfill the primary role first before playing another role” I repeated, tried to remember the lesson he just taught me.

He didn’t say anything more than that, but we barely communicative in a reserved way, and I had a feeling he meant a great deal more than that.


Year after year passed by, I never fully understood what he really meant that day. Until these days, when I rethink about my role right now.

Lately I try to play a lot of roles. Never really get to think the importance of fulfilling my primary roles. 

His words make a total sense now. If life is truly a game, then every part of it has its own role.

I can always try another role, of course we are all free to choose another role, but something that we need to keep in mind, if we want to win this game of life, we need to fulfill our main role first. If we don’t want to be chaotic with our stuff, we better put the first things first.

For the last, I never really got to say thanks to my dad for the lesson. Dad, I’m not sure if you will ever find this article, but let me say this in here: Thanks man, you’re the best dad ever.

Image credit: Dan Hogman (Pinterest)

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