HHCF Philosophy of The Chess Clock
By: Adisa Banjoko, Founder Hip-Hop Chess Federation
Walking lost in the hood, like what are you looking for?/'Cause when you got a second to live, you want a second more- Quadir Lateef feat. Jasiri X, Chess Clock
The first HHCF event was held February 23rd, 2007 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose, CA. A lot of really amazing people from the Hip-Hop and the chess and martial arts world were on hand. Some among them include then IM now GM Vinay Bhat, rapper Casual from Hieroglyphics, filmmaker Kevin Epps, and jiu jitsu fighters Paul Schreiner , Alan “Gumby” Marques and Denny “300” Prokopos.
One of the things that I recall most vividly (outside of the moment we all got kicked out for making so much noise- I love it!) was DJ QBert and Yogafrog walked in. QBert has a chess clock in hand and was like “This is the only way I like to play!” At that time, I had never really played on a clock , but I knew it turned up the pressure on the players. Later in the afternoon Vinay and Q were playing a series of games. At the close of one of them Vinay and Q were locked in a frantic focus and as he checkmated QBert and slapped the button there was one solitary second on the clock. Qbert was laughing almost in extacy holding the clock “Look!!! One second man, this is amazing!’” We were all in a balance of shock and awe. It was then that I realized the importance of bughouse and speed chess. It altered my cultural understanding of chess in America and the world.
For me chess is about fun more than anything. From the fun and the joy, everything else can evolve. But if you try to enforce kids to live and die by the checkmate in the beginning, kids burn out. I’ve seen parents grind their kids through the chess tournament circuit in just a few years. Its like the kid was cursed for having a skill. For having a deep love for the pieces, their young minds were imprisoned on 64 squares. No philosophical angles can thrive when this happens. It is a tough line to walk on how hard and when to push your kids through the eras they want to quit any given sport (especially if they show promise). As a spectator sport, chess games that go on for more than ten minutes lose the attention of all but the most hardcore lovers. While there is an authentic long term wisdom and straegy in the traditional longer games, in a fast food, smartphone, instant message America- most lose interest and in turn lose the wisdom and power of those games.
But almost all of us love a good game on the chess clock. It turns up the heat on our ideas. It forces us to show and prove our skills in 20, 15, 10, 5, 3, 2 minutes. Even the greatest classically trained chess players melt under the rays of the clocks heat. Its as equally beautiful as it is ominous. The clock reveals us. Time reveals all. The dedication you claim to whatever you say you are about will all be played out in time. Time ruins religious hoaxters and political jokesters. It reveals frauds in finance and faith. Nobody can escape its effect, but many try.
Essentially, in the HHCF methodology, the clock represents the finite reality of time. It symbolizes the reality of death. When we are young, it is so hard to imagine the frailty of life. We are running around the earth at warp speeds. We get injured quick and heal quicker. Food is fast, information bombards us in nanoseconds and its hard to make sense of it all. The planet is in a deep series of transitions. Our current rampant wars sparked over land, religion, political, racial and social ideologies are a clash of old and new ideas initializing a ripple effect of separation I believe will lead to a new unity. Our individual lives are a beautiful moment to soak in the beauty of infinity.
On the chessboard, eventually even if you have the best idea on the planet- once time is up it does not matter!! Your best ideas can no longer be actualized. Its over. How tragic to see the clock is done and see the potential victory of the next moment knowing it will forever remain unrealized.
Real life is like that. Many of us, myself included, abuse, misuse and lose time tricking ourselves about what tomorrow we will do. Hours, months, years, decades go by and we find ourselves still talking about the same things we have not yet done. This is a game we only play in our own mind. Look at the graves near you. We all have a day to be born and a day to die. Time is REAL. More real than your egos illusions of what it is capable of. Once your time is up, nothing can bring you back.
I don’t say this to be morbid or negative. I tell you this because I hope to inspire you not to be afraid of death. But not to waste time with your life either. Have fun. Feel the suns rays on your body. Laugh under the clouds. Enjoy the rain on your skin. But know that you must balance your time relaxing with consistent days, months and years of deep focus. Take the enlightenment of your brain and the physical building of your body seriously. If you have an idea about a business, an artistic project, a musical masterpiece, an accomplishment of any kind you want to see happen get on it now. Tomorrow may come, but it may not. Not just for you, but for anyone.
Trust in the power of now. Don’t let fear of failure, an unsupportive family, or fear of success get in your way. Beat the clock. The only way you beat the clock is to not waste your time. Even if you can’t hear it- its ticking right now. Its your move.
Adisa Banjoko is founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) and author of the upcoming book Live The Game. The HHCF will drop its new Street Games Vol. 1 Mixtape Nov. 15th 2013. For more information visit the HHCF Facebook page.