I may have written about this before. If so maybe I did it better this time. The Kid was seven years old and and loved the Ninja Turtles. This was when the Ninja Turtles first made an appearance, as in cartoons. The Kid would watch one show after another, even though I found them pretty boring, he didn’t.
I did not see a lot of sense to the battles, and all the moves, but as mentioned he found them fascinating. It was Memorial Day if memory serves, the family was together and the chess board came out. There were a number of us who thought we were hot stuff on the chessboard.
Of those two or three of us were sure we were the best player in the family. The Kid played a few games and lost. It is pretty hard to win when you do not even know the pieces and how they move. But for a seven year old it wasn’t a bad attempt.
The Kid’s Grandma made sure he had a chess board at home to play with. No one thought any more about it. Chess for some reason is pretty boring to most people. I thought for him even though chess was fighting, it would not compete with the Ninja Turtles.
When the Christmas holidays rolled around and we were all together, the chess board was dusted off, and we started playing. The adults who thought they were the better players were going to show off their superior skills this time, we were serious now.
After the adults who wanted to played each other, the children were allowed to play the last winning adult. When it was The Kid’s turn, one of the adults fell under his overwhelming army. We all thought it was a funny mistake.
One after another the adults were losing. Some quickly, and some more slowly, but the outcome was the same. As I watched, The Kid seemed to get stuck in a position. I would have been stuck too, it seemed he was only making random moves with no sense of end point or continuity that shows there is a plan.
It was during these times I heard him whisper to himself, “What would the Ninja Turtles do?”
How funny I thought, Ninja Turtles were just a cartoon and their fighting had no basis in the real world. The Turtles would fight, win yet another victory. WHile I was daydreaming another adult was sent away to eat a big slice of humble pie.
Family being Family, we played again over New Years. There was a minor shift in who was the chess champion for another few months, though that was not all that happened. There was a champion who remained near the helm of the family chess hierarchy. All seven years of him.
This is where it happened. Everyone took turns watching one of the others get beat, waiting their turn. Everyone saw what looked like major blunders being committed by The Kid. Many of the watchers could not contain themselves, and had to comment on what they saw as poor moves.
Three or four times a game one comment or another would be set loose from someone watching the game in progress. I felt like the only rational one making comments. Mine was always the same. He beat you, you should not be giving him advice on how to play. No one listened of course.
Easter arrived, and the family was together again. The chess board came out and the family started playing. It was different this time. The almost eight year old who mopped up the floor with us, was losing slowly every game. He lost to all but the worst of us.
I never heard him ask himself, “What would the Ninja Turtles do?”. Instead I watched him making family approved moves – that really did nothing to improve his position or worsen his opponents. He was now playing as poorly as we were.
I keep waiting to see the flashes of skill I saw him once have. I think he lost whatever spark chess had lit in him trying to play correctly. He is still a good player among the family, but no longer has the Ninja Turtles to guide his play and spark his creativity.
Recently I started to understand what The Kid had learned form the Ninja Turtles all those years ago. While I was watching the sword play, and listening to the shouting he was doing that and more. He was learning strategy while observing tactics.
Even though Ninja Turtles was a cartoon created for kids, it was made by adults. Adults who in their secret lives, were some sort of undercover Super Hero waiting to be released. Their Super Hero self was released under the guise of one or more of the Ninja Turtles.
I do not remember any of the Ninja Turtle battles I watched as I paid little attention back then. I now understand the concept and how it applies to the chess board. Attack until resistance is strong, then pull back an attack on another front. Repeat until you either win, crushing your opponent with overwhelming force, or your King is gallantly struggling to survive one more move on the march to fifty moves.
Strategy and Tactics may not be the be all, end all of chess mastery. But for us mere mortals, Strategy and Tactics are usually the game changer deciding who wins and who does not.