One Square, Any Direction

It was just one of those reversals of fortune. The director’s mother taught in a law school and the lead character was a law student. Why wouldn’t we ask her to come to rehearsal? Why wouldn’t we ask for her feedback?

“None of my students is like that.”


Oh dear.


“Well, I guess that’s why I never went to law school,” I counter. Weakly.

Long pause.

As the playwright who had created this character so devoid of any lifelike traits, that’s all I could say. We playwrights invent people – characters, I mean – all the time. We make things up. If we’re careful and considerate and lucky enough, we can fool some of the people some of the time.

Not this time. Not the professor.

What was wrong with my law student character, you ask? She was passionate and idealistic. She shouted and cried at times. I won’t say she was “too honest” because that might imply that lawyers aren’t honest – or aren’t honest enough – which is not fair. Is it? Let’s just say she… lacked an understanding of strategy.

“All that matters on the chessboard is good moves.” – Bobby Fischer, World Chess Champion

Not surprisingly, my main character was more like me than any of the director’s mother’s students.

When I was learning chess as a child, it went like this: This is the king. You move the king this way. This is the rule. This is how the king moves. There is no other way. And there are rules for each different chess piece, which I learned. Obediently. After my sister made her move, I would make the most sensible move after that, as determined by the rules of the game. Eventually, one of us won and one of us lost. Fair and square. It was fun.

No one ever told me that I should be anticipating what my sister’s next move would be. In the future! That would mean that I would have to anticipate a lot of possible moves. A lot!

Outrageous. Why would anyone want to play a game like that?

It turns out, I have been so fortunate to learn, that if you can guess someone’s likely future move, you can do a thing that might influence it. One way or the other. You can actually steer someone’s future move in a direction more to your liking than any other possible future move that they might make.

I know!

And sometimes they don’t even know what you have done.

But here’s the thing. I live in the present tense. I move one step at a time. I use the truth as my guide and my feelings as my motivation. I’m not a good chess player and it’s no wonder Bobby Fischer went crazy!

There were other problems with my play, but it was my first, and so that was to be expected. It has taken me decades to figure out what was wrong with the main character.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then. The game was more fun.


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