Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Playing Chess

One of the more overused metaphors out there is for someone to describe something as a 'chess game', or to describe someone in politics or business as 'playing chess'.

You often get this in sports, where the commentator will refer to a showdown involving 2 or 3 options (will the player go left or right?, will the coach put in the checking line or the scoring line?) as a 'chess match.' I suppose it is understandable that they avoid a more accurate assessment, since referring to these showdowns as a 'simplified tic tac toe match' might seem demeaning to the million dollar athletes involved. At least I've yet to hear a commentator suggest that the eternal fastball-curveball dilemma represents a game of Go played between pitcher and batter...

In politics, Canada's right-leaning media spent so much time trying to polish up the years of ineffectiveness from the Stephen Harper government by describing Harper as playing 'chess' rather than 'checkers' that it became a comedy line for blog commentators - with each screw-up, mis-step, boneheaded decision, defeat and failure being greeted by queries as to whether this was really another humiliating setback for the government or just another clever move by Harper the 'chessmaster'.

I bring this up, since we had a recent situation where I think a little insight from the world of chess might actually be helpful. As you may have heard, the United Arab Emirates recently evicted Canada from a military base that Canada had operated on their soil for many years. The UAE had been using the threat of kicking Canada out to try and gain more airspace rights for its domestic airline.

Most of the commentary I've read on the issue has focussed on the question of whether it was better to give up our military base or better to give in to the UAE's airspace demands. In chess terms, this is like debating which of your pawns you should let your opponent take without taking anything in return. Seen from this perspective, the question of which pawn to sacrifice is not the real strategic question. The real question is why did we allow ourselves to get into a situation where we had to sacrifice any pawns? Why were our pawns not supported with other pieces on the board? Why were we not in a position to take one of our opponents pawns, or better, a knight or a bishop, if one of our pawns was taken? But looking at it from this angle makes it obvious that the Conservative government has failed Canada yet again, so I can see why some people might not want to think about it this way.

You know, maybe Harper is playing chess, but he's just not very good at it. It would be nice if Canadian voters sent him packing while we still have some pieces left on the board.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home