In Praise of Chess by A.G. Gardiner
In the essay In Praise of Chess by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of satisfaction, happiness, enthusiasm, contentment, privilege, class and old-age. Taken from his Pebbles on the Shore collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of satisfaction. Gardiner considers a game of chess to be the most satisfying thing in the world. For him no other game is comparable. He wishes when he is older to play chess with his friends and to enjoy the game as much as he did when he was a teenager. This may be important as Gardiner may be suggesting that chess and the playing of chess has been a constant in his life. From his time as a teen to his projected old-age. For all his life Gardiner wishes to be able to play chess more than any other game. He likes the nature of chess and the battle of wits that occurs between two opponents. Neither knowing if the other will fall into the others trap. It is as though Gardiner, through intellectual stimulation, finds happiness. He may very well enjoy the life he is living but to take chess away from Gardiner would result in their being a hole in Gardiner’s life.
What is also interesting about the essay is the comparison Gardiner makes between old-age and the ending of a day. He compares both to each other as though there is no difference. In many ways Gardiner romanticizes old-age. Yet he himself may not be happy when he reaches old-age. His body or mind may let him down and he may not be able to play chess as he wishes. Only time can tell as to whether things will turn out favourably for Gardiner. Though it is hard to see Gardiner’s light dimmed considering how enthusiastic he is. He plans no other occupation apart from playing chess in the evening with his friends. For him that is a sign of contentment. Gardiner’s desires are simple and the only obstacle to him achieving his dreams is whether or not he retires in good health. If anything Gardiner is thinking about life as though he is wearing rose-tinted glasses. He does not see nor does he imagine there to be any obstacle to his plans. Everything in Gardiner’s eyes will work out for the best. Unfortunately life does not work like this.
However it is easy to see as to why Gardiner would be so simple thinking in his outlook. Why would a man look at life any different? Particularly if the individual’s life is comfortable at present. Gardiner lives in a protected environment and can afford to have hopes of complete leisure upon reaching old-age. It is the same for his peers. They too can afford to live their lives without any worries as they are of a privileged class. On the other hand is the everyday man who must work till he dies. Who will not know the benefits of playing chess with friends because of the life that they are forced to continue (working). Gardiner’s problems are not the same problems that other men will encounter. He through birth may have been afforded luxuries in life that are alien to other men. Men who are as deserving as Gardiner when it comes to his aspirations. The fact that Gardiner only wants to play chess with those he grew up with could also be significant. As possibly Gardiner is showing his class or his belief in a class system. It is not other men that Gardiner wants to play chess with but with friends. All of whom is assumed to be of the same class as Gardiner. Though at the same time Gardiner may be using chess to connect himself with his friends.
The end of the essay is also interesting as the reader gets a further insight into just how happy Gardiner is when it comes to playing chess. As mentioned earlier in the essay. There is nothing that it can be compared to. Even if Gardiner is to lose the game. Gardiner’s true love is playing chess the outcome is irrelevant. Once the game has been played. It is to be enjoyed in victory or defeat. Something which some readers might find unusual while others might suggest that Gardiner’s intentions are admirable. He will spend two hours in a battle of wits with an opponent and the result itself will not matter. It is the engaging in the game that is more important for Gardiner. To have his friends play with him and to try and out do one another is only part of the experience. If anything the real joy for Gardiner may be the fact that his friends will still be with him in old-age. Something he is obviously thankful for.