The One Thing That’s Helped Me Cope with the Lockdown

Isolation can be claustrophobic at times. (Photo Credits: Anthony Tran)

There’s something about the brain that needs to put out there. It’s very weird. Take the instance of my parents. They are one of those reclusive kinds of people who prefer staying indoors, the only exception being in the case of a family event to whom saying no seems disrespectful. I’ve tried numerous times to convince them to eat out and expand their social horizons, only to be met with a ‘reasonable’ excuse to stay indoors. Transition to May 2020 when countries all around the world are advising everyone to stay indoors to control a global pandemic. This is when I see a photo of my parents meeting a group of friends. I immediately called up dad to ask him why this was the moment out of all times that they went over to their friends’ home to gather in a group, and his reply left me in a state of amazement.

“How long can we stay at home!” he said. “It starts getting to your head.” This was coming from the man whose routine mostly involved a trip to and from the office only, and who opted to watch TV on holidays.

The human brain sure is wired up unlike anything else. When told to do something productive, it is continuously attracted to the laziest outcome possible, but when forced to do the lazy action, it gravitates towards something else. This can lead to a state of enormous mental stress and the possibility of losing your mind.

I guess this is the perfect point to plug in the activity that has helped me deal with the huge headache that’s been the lockdown. It started out as just one dose in a couple of days, quickly transitioning into a daily injection until now when I’m completely addicted, not being able to live without it for a couple of hours at maximum.

No, I’m not referring to social media but the sensation that is chess. I can literally see the people who had been reading this close this tab in disgust, imagining a really boring board game and a potential waste of time. To them, I say this story involves a Bongcloud, hallucinations, and tons and tons of adrenaline rushes.

No one still knows why a Bishop is on the battlefield though (Photo Credits: Michał Parzuchowski)

The image of two people spending hours and hours over a chessboard, making slow moves is of the past. Yes, it does exist in the form of classical games but in the age of online chess, quick games, known as blitz are taking over.

And these games are, to put it simply, addictive.

Not only does it help in making good use of time by sharpening your mental skills and all those advantages taught in our childhood, but it provides for a really entertaining time once you get going. The adrenaline rush in a time-controlled game is something that cannot be expressed truly in words and can only be experienced which is sure to make the day for all those who love excitement. The scope of calculations and forward-thinking involved is sure to please all math junkies, and puzzle enthusiasts will not be able to resist the temptation of solving online chess positional puzzles.

I used to love playing as a child but then the advent of the internet and surfing through meaningless content took over. Chess was becoming a thing of the past as I also began to associate it with long ‘boring’ games in this age of small attention spans.

The lockdown has been the perfect time for a revival in interest. It started out as an online challenge with a friend and is now a daily part of my life, playing against strangers. Online streamers have also used this quarantine phase to their maximum advantage, as chess has slowly emerged as one of the top e-sports. I feel like my day is never complete without watching people like Agadmator, GM Hikaru, the Botez sisters and the Indian streamer Samay Raina play games.

The endless possibilities of chess moves lead to understanding and experimenting with new openings and piece sacrifices, one of which is the Bongcloud Opening, and it is as fascinating as the name suggests. Even while away from the chessboard, the constant positions and movement of pieces stay imprinted in the mind, calming down the nerves during frustrating times, keeping the mind sane during periods of lean activity.

Maintaining composure during these times has been one of the most difficult things and chess has definitely been the savior. So if you still haven’t, or have lost touch of the game, go ahead make a user ID on any chess website and start a new addiction that could even be better than going to a friend’s house and posing for pictures in some cases!

As a wise man rightly stated, “If someone says they do not enjoy chess, they have either not understood the rules properly or are simply lying.”

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