11 March 2011


I'm sharing J's assignment for his photography class. All he had to do was to shoot samples of white on white, black on black, glass bottle, etc. But he went beyond the requirement and created a cohesive photo story using only one subject matter -- one of his greatest loves, chess.


My Chess Story

The first article I wrote that got published was a chess piece. I was 12 then. My move into writing is probably as checkered as my chess. I've been able to publish my works, in school organs, company newsletters, and national newspapers and magazines, whether it's prose and poetry, press releases and advertorials, or just advertising copy. Humility aside, I can write as well as I can play chess. But I am far from being a successful writer. In the same way that I am far from being a chess grandmaster.

This photo essay is my first move in photography. Or at least for the first set of assignments in FPPF's Basic Photography Workshop. I don't fancy this getting published. But I do have dreams of getting my pictures published in the future. This time, I want to excel.

Above: Glass Bottle

ISO100, f/1.8, 1/25 sec., 50mm
Canon EOS 450D

Fragile Prodigy.

I once fancied myself a child prodigy. At 10, my uncle taught me the basic moves. A few months later, I can beat most adults with intermediate playing strength. I was the best in school and played Board 1 in an inter-school competition. I once beat a varsity teammate, blindfolded! Unfortunately, I didn't have the proper guidance to progress further. I didn't have a chess coach. And I didn't get support to play in tournaments.

Above: Shallow Depth of Field
ISO100, f/1.8, 1.80 sec., 50mm
Canon EOS 450D
Shallow Appreciation.

To the uninitiated, chess is just a another boring board game. To be pun-ny, it's a “bored” game. And to every beginner, chess is just child's play. Until I played competitive chess. More than two decades later, I'm now back to just playing for fun.

Above: Deep Depth of Field
ISO100, f/22, 2.5", 50mm
Canon EOS 450D

In Deep Thought.

Chess trained me to easily recognize patterns, sharpened my mental acuity, and developed my foresight. And as I even delved deeper, I discovered the intricacies of strategies, tactics, and gamesmanship. On hindsight, I realized these were all important life lessons.

Above: White on White
ISO400, f/5.6, 1/60 sec., 18-55mm
Canon EOS 450D

Playing White.

One of my earliest chess idols was the eccentric genius, Bobby Fischer. As white, I played aggressively, with gambits, in both king- or queen-pawn openings. But maturity tempered the aggression. I still gamble with my moves, but I no longer play as recklessly as my youth.

Above: Black on Black
ISO100, f/5.6, 1/60 sec., 18-55mm
Canon EOS 450D

Playing Black.

The first set of defenses I learned were the so-called Indian Defenses—Grunfeld, King's Indian, and Nimzowitch. What playing black has thought me is patience, to wait it out, to keep things together in the face of great adversity. When the time is right, strike back. Again, this is a priceless life lesson.

Above: Motion Freeze
ISO1600, f/1.8, 1/4000 sec., 50mm
Canon EOS 450D

Frozen In My Mind.

There was a time when I saw the pieces of my first chess set—a gift from my uncle—flung into the air. The king fell, it's crown broken. This is one time when being better was not exactly the best move. This forever scarred my play.

Above: Motion Blur
ISO1600, f/22, 1 sec., 18-55mm
Canon EOS 450D

It's All A Matter Of Time.

After a short checkered career in chess, I resigned. I quit. I was over. The end game was as fast as the opening. I was not able to enjoy the middle game. But I have no regrets. I now play speed chess online—blitz and bullet games—against anonymous opponents, against players who cannot smash my board, and against opponents who cannot break my king. But the big irony is, we get to thrash-talk!

Above: Portrait (Head and Shoulder)
ISO100, f/1.8, 1/40 sec., 50mm
Canon EOS 450D

My Queen.

In chess, as in life, if you play the right moves, lady luck plays along. I guess that is how I won the heart of my mate, my queen, my life partner.

J's photography teacher: "Congratulations. You have really won the best heart, the most beautiful mate, queen and partner. Your portrait of her is just perfect. Enjoy your photography as much as I enjoy talking to you."

More from her, "Congrats! I enjoyed reading your little piece. How about contributing to Frame One of FPPF? Good luck!"

Me: Proud of my kapwa-working student / life partner / daily date! (Ang CHESS-y! Ewe.)

I actually don't like this photo of me. This is me bagong-gising. But technically, according to the professional photographers, it was a good "head and shoulder" shot. So who am I to complain? Hehe.

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