“There would be no game of chess if the pawns refused to play.” What does this mean?

Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:

Thank you for the A2A.

This quote can have several analogical explanations. I shall try to explain it the way I see it.

Pawns are one of the most insignificant pieces on chessboard. They have minimal movement powers and are seldom seen doing the ‘attack and capture’ maneuver for bigger pieces, thanks to their short life-spans on the board. Pawns could be said to be on a suicide mission. Each one of them are destined to fall first to the enemy. And yet, the game cannot even start without a pawn making the first move.

In many situations in life, the more insignificant ones are pushed to the forefront to ‘test waters’. We see that often in corporate environments. Senior management takes a decision, but the actual implementation of the decision is done by individuals several rungs lower than them, with little or no say in the decision itself. Usually they have no option but to obey. But if they refuse to comply, nothing moves forward. Plans and decisions remain plans and decisions. Nothing more, nothing less. Status quo.

To think of people who are much lower than us as insignificant is one of the greatest follies any person can make. Many people look down upon people who do menial jobs. If it were not for them, we wouldn’t be sitting in our snazzy office buildings. Our washrooms won’t be so clean. Our roads won’t be free of litter. Our entire system would have come to a standstill.

Each individual in the social class pyramid is important. And I personally feel that the actual people who sustain our society are the ones at the very bottom…the pawns. If they refused to ‘play’, then think of the rungs above them. Everything would become standstill and then eventually topple.

In a battlefield, aren’t the foot soldiers the ones who stand at the very front of the battle? They are the first ones to bear the enemy’s onslaught. The cavalry and the artillery followed them, even though they were better protected and better armed. The senior officers and commanders were even further behind to shout out orders. So if it were not for the infantry, how would they be able to plan their moves?

Another way of looking at it is in the corruption scenario. How many cases of corruption do we hear about every single day? They may be big or small. But they exist. The path of corruption trickles down from the highest level to the lowest levels. Imagine the scenario if the lower levels themselves refused to be corrupt. The ones above them will have no other alternative but to follow suit. Again, it is in the hands of the lower levels (the pawns) to decide whether the upper rungs should also follow their example at a larger scale by taking proportionately larger sums of money as bribes, or not to.

It is indeed true that if the pawns refused to play, there indeed would be no game of chess. Whoever said this was a genius no less 😀

“There would be no game of chess if the pawns refused to play.” What does this mean?


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