By Namatirai Zinyohwera

My relationship with chess over the years has always been one of silent reverie. It made me look smarter than I was in grade school and gave me an edge over the brawn. But through the years and to my disappointment, I would be the first to submit that I am not one of the masters – heck If I was, I’m sure tech would have something to be jealous about. But through such personal and truthful reflection, I do beg to ask the question around the fairness of associating a board game with mass intelligence. Let’s take our household favourite for measuring intelligence, Albert Einstein. 

Speculation around his chess career has caused much ado about nothing in different circles through the years. But here is the version I can base my opinion on.

It’s well known that Albert Einstein was a friend of former world chess champion (and mathematician) Emanuel Lasker. It’s also known that Einstein could play chess, though he reportedly disliked the competitive aspect. That said, he was a great player, even though he never really pursued the game. Instead lending his genius to other exploits like the development of a theory on special and general relativity, which helped to complicate and expand upon theories that had been put forth by Isaac Newton over 200 years prior.

Now that Einstein has helped us conclude the debate on whether being a chess player is a key metric for success, we can rest the schoolyard debate until our next high school reunion. We can add “chess” to the bucket of “unnecessary things I learnt in school” where “learning how to make potato batteries” and “mastering long division” currently sit with “learning how to play the recorder” and other not so user-friendly teachings.

This by no means is a calculated attack against my teachers, to whom I owe everything I know today and whose only fault was not teaching me how to code by the age of 15 like Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter. As we say now in our grown up days, its beer under the bridge, I have forgiven them and begun looking at corrective measures like free YouTube videos for beginner coding – oldish dog, new tricks.

But as many of my introductions tend to be, chess is a trojan horse whose image I have borrowed to deliver some of my observations over the last couple of weeks. The design thinking behind chess has over the years revealed itself as being inspired by the social phenomenon of feudalism – I assume. With that word, I make reference to the lives of Kings and Kingdoms, whose Queens flourished on the service of Knights, Bishops, Castles and the Serfs. What a brilliant tapestry of history, in whose romance we can only dream. I guess chess is more than just a trojan horse, worth only figurative meaning in literature – maybe chess is the ultimate simulation of society in its simplest form.

The past couple of months have choked the world into a coma and those that have sur- vived the shell shock, they too have been on their last breath since COVID-19 gripped the world. But this has only been the lived reality of the majority, certainly not the minority. Whether we are working with the “Great Reset” or the “Great Equalizer” COVID-19 has not been the undoing of everyone. In actual fact, it could be argued that if the pandemic waves could reach you in any way, it has more to say about your position on the chessboard of life than anything else. Plainly put, the rich got richer and will continue on this trend – there is nothing new under the sun.

According to Statistica, the world’s leading billionaires added over one trillion U.S. dollars to their collective wealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. From March to December 2020, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, added a total of 71.4 billion U.S. dollars to his net worth. With 118.5 billion dollars, Elon Musk added the highest value to his net worth during the time under consideration.

Now…there is nothing wrong with that, unless of course you are more inclined to think that there are always two sides to the story. Being a simpleton I just happen to strangely believe that no matter what brings the crisis, a climate of opportunity is presented in which those most able to act will capitalize – one word, capitalise.

Its vaccine season and although we are al- ready tired and activated by the word pandemic, scared, un-scared and re-scared by resurgences in the form of “variants” and “waves”, I cant help to feel personally like I’ve been stuck on Level 1 of Super Mario, for the better part of the last couple of months. My reality is that I am not Jeff nor am I Elon and whilst I remain supportive of their record breaking exploits on the Forbes list, very little of that value is trickling down to yours truly.

But you know what, I am happy about one thing, Elon Musk’s tweet in the thicket of the pandemic when he said he wanted to use his money to fund his Mars city goal was riveting. Coupled with the comfort this statement brings, I was elated by the news that NASA has done it again. The most recent landing took place on 18 February 2021 by the NASA rover Perseverance. Look, I too am optimistic about space exploration and here is why.

At this point the antagonist is probably asking why I am raving on about matters that don’t concern my aptitude. To which I respond, I believe that space exploration at the moment of globalisation offers humanity an opportunity to love. Yes, it’s really that simple, an opportunity to love and I am happy to observe players such as Elon investing in making this venture more exciting and applaud them for taking something so challenging for humanity out of the woodwork, just as Albert Einstein did.

I will give an elementary example. Every kindergarten in the world has mastered one thing – that is, “if you have a bunch of toddlers ‘toddlering’ away, screaming, scratching and overall being little slithers to each other, give them toys, they will get lost in that distraction”. Labelling Africa the last frontier for global growth is a widely advertised statement, which both intrigues, disturbs and worries me. We can’t be the only thing left, because if we are it’s truly the end. With hegemonic capitalism on one side, in its arranged marriage with democracy on the other, we are on a straight highway to doomsday (I am very excited to have used this word in a sentence) and with very few alternative options on the table, better than good old romantic feudalism, we are really struggling here on earth.

The question of space exploration will reconfigure our consciousness, allowing us to appreciate that which is bigger, braver and better than us. We must admit, we are so overly concerned by our own existence, that even imagining that there could be something out there, is merely a chat we can’t have over a beer – but why not?

The subject matter of space exploration is as real as our own existence, there really are other planets out there raising many questions worth answers only you can give. Now imagine if everyone could task themselves to keep an eye on that rabbit whole (FYI ancient civilizations in Africa had very deep roots in cosmetology, google the Dogon people) and so did other civilisations globally, we could for once put aside our differences and reflect on our humanity in this great expanse they call the universe.

For once we will fight for what we are up against as human beings, global warming and climate, energy, water etc. the list is endless. Our worldview will shift into a universal view, one where greater challenges are at play, where any woman or man can strive for excellence and leave a lasting impression.

My fair warning to everyone is that things will never be the same again in this new and brave world we are living in. Like a pawn on a chessboard the only move I can make is going forward and I implore you to do the same – step into the light of a world that is breaking new barriers. Take interest in the abstract, understand that the unknown is only a stranger before you say hello. Share this message and contribute to an exponential function where telling your neighbour will lead to them telling somebody else who will unlock a dream for a young girl or boy out there, whose destiny will be to be one of the first African inhabitants on Mars. That my good friends is the beauty of not leaving a legacy but living a legacy.

 Namatirai Zinyohwera is a Business Development Services Consultant in the ICT sector