old essay I wrote once to convince Stanford to let me pay it money
Back in 2004, Stanford asked:
Of the activities, interests and experiences listed previously, which is the most meaningful to you, and why? (1500 character limit)
And I replied:
I’ve lost at least one game of chess to everyone I know, including one sophomore who had played only ten games to my then-fifty, and my friend Robert, who had played none. I cut out and save the daily chess problem from my newspaper every day, but I’ve never solved it. My copy of champion Emanuel Lasker’s chess manual is about an inch and a quarter thick, but I’ve yet to finish more than a millimeter, stymied as I am by the notation.
And yet, you’ll still find me by the picnic benches every Tuesday and
Thursday. Sometimes I’ll be playing, sometimes President Chris will be
once again explaining rook mates and defense against the Fried Liver
Attack, and sometimes I’ll be enviously watching Arnav, who has yet to
lose a serious match. (The one time he lost, he was doing his
homework at the same time.)
Do I feel discouraged? Sometimes. I’m unlikely to ever be more than
the rock-bottom lowest player in the whole chess league.
Does it matter? Not at all. For me, the pleasure of chess lies in the
problems of attack and defense, of the rush of managing to fork two
pieces—the same sort of pleasure I find in creating a particularly apt
metaphor, of editing a sentence to some especially neat brevity, of
suddenly comprehending another application of Jamesian pragmatism. I
separated the joy of the struggle to win from the actual victory
itself a very long time ago, and judging by the constancy of my
attendance at Chess Club, I have no less joy in chess than anyone else.
So you’ll still find me at the club, shaking hands with whomever I’ve
lost to this time, smiling at the underclassmen members exuberantly
screaming, “Mate! Mate! I’m so good at this game!”