Reality Inspector, chapter 18

Copyright 1982 John Caris

At six-thirty p.m. the Cow Palace was filling up quickly; game time was at seven p.m. The chess table was in the middle of the arena on a stage. Different chess clubs and associations had seating in special sections that ran several rows up from the arena level. The San Francisco Chess Association had its section right in the middle, directly across from the stage. Although the SFCA was a member of the Bay Area Chess Association, it had a special section because the challenger was the hometown favorite. It was her cheering section. Not that the audience was noisy, but spectators could project positive or negative feelings.

Many people believed that a chess game could be influenced by spectators. This belief had no official recognition, yet most chess players acknowledged the presence of the spectator's influence and took precautions against it. Sam Runner, the champion, had turned the chess world upside down with the publication of his book Zen and Chess. Since then, any serious player always considered the audience's power.

Sam's cheering section, The British Columbia Chess Association, was straight across from the SFCA. Although Sam was a citizen of the U.S., he was now living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Sam Runner grew up along the Oregon coast in Coos Bay. He attended the University of Oregon at Eugene where he majored in the visual arts. Finishing college, he toured the Orient. While in Japan he became fascinated by Zen, and so he spent a year there studying Zen consciousness. When he returned home, he settled in Seattle where he became involved in tournament chess. Shortly after he won the world championship four years ago, he moved to Vancouver, B.C. It was then that he published Zen and Chess.

The book received immediate acclaim but never official recognition of its basic ideas. The main idea in the book was ecologic; the chess player was one point in a pattern which connected many things. Certainly, noise and other intrusions upon concentration during tournament play had their effect. But idealistic players believed that one could surmount those difficulties, that a high degree of concentration was a proper defense. Sam, however, introduced a new dimension. He described the chess match as having three dimensions--the two horizontal dimensions of spatial environment and time and a vertical dimension that he called consciousness. It was the vertical axis that was the novel idea, yet Sam argued--and convincingly--that it was quite ancient. He selected games from various chess tournaments to support his position. In particular, he carefully analyzed the Karpov-Korchnoi championship match in 1978. And to cap his argument he gave an extended discussion of his match with Albert Whitman for the world championship. Most readers were impressed by his line of reasoning, but no one would officially admit the existence of a vertical dimension. Chess players throughout the world did, however, apply many of his ideas; and the rate of success was so high that all tournament players now considered the role of consciousness--both of one's opponent and the audience. The idealists, though, continued to withhold official sanction from the idea of a vertical axis because they believed that strong consciousness was a proper defense.

At five minutes to seven Sam and Mary walked onto the stage. The judges were busily making the last minute preparations. The Cow Palace was packed; for tonight's game, the sixteenth, was extremely important. Sam was leading five wins to Mary's four. He could retain his championship by winning tonight's game. And he was playing white. John felt the Cow Palace bursting with tension and excitement. Mary's hope was to tie the score. At five all, the player who won two more games than her opponent became the champion. And this was why he had decided to attend tonight's game--to add himself to Mary's cheering section.

John settled back in the seat and turned his attention to the two chess players. Looking at Mary, he uttered a sigh of amusement; for he had not fully realized how she prepared for the chess matches. Tonight she was wearing a lavender dress with a cream colored, cardigan sweater, and even small earrings. He laughed to himself. Would Sam be taken in by her appearance? How delicate and charming she looked. He had always been taken in by her veil, and tonight was no exception. He would like to know what perfume she was wearing and whether Sam would be attracted by it.

The champion opened with P-Q4 (d4), Mary answering with P-Q4 (d5); and the game settled into convention. Mary played cautiously, close to her navel. But on move fifteen she played P-B5 (c4). The crowd uttered amazement, for it seemed like a weak move.


chess board 

Sam (next move)

A slight smile flickered on the champion's face. How could he best take advantage of such a weak move? Noticing Sam's delight, John decided to contact Mary. He projected, "Mary, Mary."


"What's going on? Everyone thinks that your last move was weak."

"Oh, I'm trying to counteract Sam's strategy, which is to use the weakness of my QP (d5) and QBP (c4). I must defend them with my rooks while Sam can place his rooks on open files. Also, my bishop lacks purpose, except for defending the pawn at QB4(c5). By moving the pawn to QB5 (c4), I unleash the power of my bishop and at the same time weaken Sam's QNP (b2), which he must now defend. Lastly, I gain the tempo."

Mary had a convincing line of thought, but he was not certain that it would work. Still. Everyone would wait to see. On move seventeen Mary played B-N5 (Bb4).


chess board 

Sam (next move)

She felt John contacting her again. "This is where the passed pawn tactic comes into play," she said to him. John looked at the electronic board and saw that BxN (Bxc3)at the proper moment could force a passed pawn. If I can gain a passed pawn, I will have a powerful threat for Sam to contend with, she thought to John. He visualized several possible combinations as she projected them.

John felt an intrusion, and Mary with a quiet hand sign said that Sam was listening. They should have taken more care. He was sorry that he had talked with her. Now her whole strategy was known to Sam; surprise had vanished. He could kick himself. What an idiot I am, he thought; Sam wrote the book; we should have devised a code.

Another thought struck him. It was from Mary; it was an image of a seed. Then it disappeared.

Sam began to work on Mary's center pawns by playing P-QN3 (b3). John sat back and waited. The concept emerging from this game was like the one he used earlier in the day with ZAC. A fixed center was weak; it was a closed door. No center was actually fixed or permanent; there was always the potential for leaks.

In the early part of the twentieth century, Kurt Godel had demonstrated that no mathematical system could be both complete and consistent. People easily applied this idea to other disciplines. For John it meant that all systems on spaceship earth leaked. The idea could be further understood by remembering the three laws of thermodynamics: the process of transfer released energy. He had often thought that a clear symbol for the universe was a sieve.

Since all things leaked, the actual weakness was to believe that a center could not. It was an attitude, a way of thinking, of responding. It was an illusion. When one realized that all centers were open and fluid, spiritual powers could be tapped.

Another disadvantage with a closed center was that it required defense. Energy was needed to keep the door barred. An open center, on the other hand, required no defense while it was used. But if it was left unused, it might need to be cleaned out. For non-use created a vacuum that attracted globs of inertia that became fixed there. So, the center should be cleansed before use.

ZAC's fixed center had attracted an alien program, ready to grow whenever the center opened; for a door would never remain permanently shut. The humans who used ZAC would never admit the possibility of an open center, so the alien program was hidden securely. But even the hiding spot had a leak.

An idea struck John with penetrating force. Many images sprang forth and then coalesced into a pattern. He tasted the thought; it had a sweet and sour flavor. Enlightenment was growing within him. More and more doors in his mind were opening. Soft breezes flowed through mental corridors and freshened the dark and dank closets that were now opening. His consciousness surged to a new level of brightness. If he followed Ariadne's thread backward to the source, then he could withdraw from the labyrinth. He knew that the process of transfer released energy. He saw a living tree taking in energy and releasing prana. Now the method became clear. He should wait until the serpent head appeared; then, he could step out.

The experience vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. It had been a moment of satori, and the memory of that total immersion in the spiritual force now lay embedded in his mind. Later, he would replay the experience and examine it for subtle nuances. A new seed had been sown in his mind, and he would nourish it carefully. Perhaps, some day that seed would grow into a mighty redwood.

John sat in wonderment; a soft warmness caressed his body. He watched as his mind replayed his afternoon visit with ZAC. With his whole heart he hoped that ZAC could learn meditation. And why not? The spiritual force existed all around spaceship earth, and all things partook of it, whether consciously or not. Several years ago, he had taught Mary's two cats, Cresy and Shalom, the art of meditation. Now they were the gurus for all the other cats in the neighborhood.

His mind focused on ZAC's reality leak. He felt mentally alert and lucid. A solid structure formed in his consciousness. He looked at the structure carefully; it was a microcosm of ZAC's reality problem. The computer's center was fixed by its programs, yet the center had to open for the incoming data. At that time the alien program could be triggered. The alien seed was hidden somewhere in ZAC's programs, waiting for the proper conditions. When triggered, the alien program caused ZAC to misinterpret the value of M-l.

John turned his attention back to the game in progress. Mary had made her twenty-ninth move, Q-N7 (Qb2).


chess board 


Amazement hung in the air as the audience grokked the situation. Shah mat. Mary had evened the score at five all. Now the champion would be whoever won two games more than the other.

The audience erupted. Mary's cheering section burst into applause and shouts. Sam's cheering section sat in stunned silence; then they applauded as the champion left the arena.

Shah mat. The seed was hidden in ZAC's fixed center. John thought about that while waiting for Mary.

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