Chess and COVID-19

Chess and COVID-19?  Yes, the combination seems odd, yet fighting this pandemic is a lot like a game of chess.  Looking at the world of chess, we can divide players into three categories:  novices and/or bad players, intermediate players, and advanced players, at the top level in the chess world, they are “Grand Masters”.

A novice player knows the rules, how each piece works and moves.  They react to what they see.  And when they play a more advanced player?  They lose, sometimes badly.  And right now that is were we are with the fight against COVID-19.  Every step our government has taken is in reaction to changing events.  The first reaction was denial.  The story is all there.  We all know the details.

An intermediate chess player learns not just to react, they start to see what is coming and plan.  The next move isn’t just in response to what their opponent just did, it’s a step in anticipation of what will come next.  As the player gets better, it’s also a step towards offense, not just defense.  The COVID-19 strategy seems to be getting there.  Ask Dr. Fauci, he knows.

And finally in chess we have the “Grand Master”.  To reach this level a player learns to see ahead, way ahead.  Grand Masters are thinking five, six, seven, steps ahead, sometimes as many as twelve or more.  They see not only what their opponent is doing at the moment, but where they are going next.  Their moves are not just about the moment, they are about what is to come.  Yes, the permutations are great, yet the top chess players narrow them by forcing their opponent in the desired direction.  It’s why chess is such a complex game.  We are a long way from that point in the fight against COVID-19.  The disease doesn’t think and react the way an opponent does in chess, yet unless we see this in a long term approach, we are going to lose.

Why does this matter?  Because reducing the spread in the United States, in Europe is not enough.  If we don’t plan ahead there will be a rebound.  It will come from the under-developed parts of the world.  When the Ebola outbreaks happened in Africa the United States was part of the response.  There were multiple reasons, some humanitarian, some scientific, and, frankly, some were selfish.  Beating Ebola in Africa meant it didn’t come here.

Ebola serves as a great example.  Many countries in the poorer parts of the world don’t have the resources to fight COVID-19, at least not how we can.  If we don’t have enough respirators?  We can make more.  It will take time, but the capability exists,  Can Sierra Leone?  Liberia?  Niger?  Haiti?  Bolivia?  Cambodia?  Perhaps in some of the individual countries, yes, but in most countries the answer is no.  This is not just problem in the United States and Europe, it’s a worldwide problem.  And if we don’t think ahead and help those who need it, both here at home and in other parts of the world, then we run the risk of a series of rebounds.


Leave a Reply