How to Avoid Checkmate: Writing, Chess and Cold War Politics

Iceland, 1972

It’s the height of summer, and in Reykjavik, the northernmost capital in Europe, the sun never sets in July and August. The lava fields and fjords are cast in a perpetual dawn.

The final chess game in the Match of the Century began on Aug. 31, and after 40 moves Borris Spassky took a final look at the board and set his king on its side, conceding not only the match but 24 years of Soviet domination in World Championships.

Anyone familiar with chess, or politics, knows that the match between American Bobby Fischer and Borris Spassky was more than a chess game; it was a Cold War battle, an Us against Them moment in which the threat of nuclear destruction never came into play. The newspaper headlines, however, were a lot like Shot(s) Heard Round the World. Reykjavik, 1972, was about two men, a 64-square black and white board, and enough plotting and intrigue, both on and off-court, to supply fodder for countless historians and would-be spy novelists.

In other words, The Match of the Century is best described as The Metaphor of the Century, so let’s take that idea and play with it.

Writing is a Game of Chess

From the striking opening line of an article to the resounding, checkmate closing, the freelancer employs the same type of tactics as the chess player. Chess is an intricate play of offense and defense, and this strategic balance is what comprises most of the game. In other words, this is similar to the body of an article; those three or four paragraphs that make up the centerpiece and main argument of the thesis need to be balanced and controlled.

In chess, it’s all too common to spot an offensive opening, get overly eager and excited, plan three or four moves ahead, and forget to properly shore up the defense. Boom. The queen is captured. When we write, if our synapses are popping and our brain firing on all cylinders, we have a tendency to get ahead of ourselves. Ideas are coming fast and furious, but we forget to logically connect the dots. It’s the equivalent of planning three chess moves ahead; without sitting back and studying how one sentence, or paragraph, connects to the next, the king is dead.

Freelancer as Grandmaster

From the French defense and the English opening to the Queen’s Gambit, the evolution of chess has seen innumerable playing styles. The grandmaster is the player who’s learned all these styles and knows when to utilize them. A writer needs to be a grandmaster, and this is especially true if he’s working for a handful of article writing services. He needs to be versatile not only with the intro, body and conclusion of his articles, but willing to adjust his gameplay to the stylistic needs of the client.

Turning the relationship with our clients into a game of Cold War politics is never a good idea, nor is it lucrative. If we can’t pay the bills: Checkmate.

Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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