[...]The gift of early insight into chess or math or music is often also accompanied by a growing obsession with those activities, simply because of the wonders of connection and invention that unfold in the young mind. The world itself, with its more messy human interactions, its complicated histories, its emotional conflicts, can be put aside, and attention focused on an intricate bounded cosmos. Perhaps we should be grateful that such gifts are so rare, for if they were not, how many of us would prefer to remain cocooned in these glass-bead games? At least in mathematics and music, we may be grateful too that ultimately, with the coming of maturity, the world starts to put constraints on abstract play. Great music attains its power not simply through manipulation and abstraction, but by creating analogies with experience; music is affected by life, not cut off from it. Mathematics also comes up against the demands of the world, as the field opens up to understanding; early insights are tested against the full scale of what has been already been done and what yet remains undone. But chess, alone among this abstract triumvirate, is never tested or transformed. The only way expertise is ever tried is in victory or defeat. And if a player is as profoundly powerful as Mr. Fischer, defeat never creates a sense of limits. Seeing into a game and defeating an opponent — that defines the entire world.
Edward Rothstein, "Fischer vs. the World: A Chess Giant's Endgame"
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