What Happens When You Don’t Quit

The other day my daughter challenged me to a game of chess. She’d never played before, but we got a new set for Christmas and my husband had spent some time teaching her the pieces and how each moves.

“The winner,” she said, giving me her best Dirty Harry look, “gets a Gobstopper.”

Game on.

I wasn’t easy on her. I wanted her to experience a real game, and I knew she was up to the challenge. That being said, I gave her some advice along the way, asked her if she really wanted to move that bishop to that space where he’d be under attack, and let her take back a couple of moves. She’s a smart girl. She caught on quickly and made a number of really smart decisions.

Alas, about a half-hour into our game, her lone king was surrounded by my queen, king and two rooks.

“Well,” I said, “you have a choice. You can either lay down your king now, or I can chase you around the board until I beat you.”

“Or,” my husband said from the other room, “you reach a stalemate and then it’s a draw.”

I rolled my eyes. Whatever. But my daughter chose that slim hope and the chase ensued.

She’d move her king and I’d position my queen or one of my rooks to put him back into check. She’d move again. Check. She’d move again. Check. I asked her now and again if she was ready to give up, but she always chose to keep playing. Move. Check. Move. Check. On and on, a slow limp toward her defeat.

Or so I thought.

She moved her king back a space–the only space he could move to–and I inched my own king forward a space. “Hang on,” I said, “I think this is it. I don’t think you can go anywhere else.”

I called my husband over to verify. He looked over the board and laughed. “That’s a stalemate.”


Sure enough, we’d wiggled into a situation where she wasn’t in check, but also wasn’t able to move anywhere else. Stalemate. A draw.

My daughter had escaped being checkmated by her mom. That was as good enough as a win in her book. Even better than a Gobstopper.

“That,” my husband said as my daughter did a victory dance, “is what happens when you don’t quit.”