If you've ever played chess, at any level, you know it is strategic and tactical, disciplined and creative, and endlessly fascinating. It is a game that began in another form in sixth-century India. From there, it spread to Persia and eventually all over the world. At least that's the generally accepted story of its origins.

Today chess is one of the most popular games in the world. It is thought of as having three distinct phases: the opening, the middle game and the end game. In chess, strategy and tactics require the ongoing evaluation of your position on the board and what it will take to achieve the goal which is to checkmate your opponent. Hold that thought.

Several weeks ago, I wrote of the Great Debt Ceiling debate that we might be witnessing the greatest show on earth. I was wrong. That was only the playoffs. Here comes the SuperCommittee Bowl, a game we might think of as SuperChess.

As part of the resolution (you'll pardon the expression) of the opening moves in the Great Debt Ceiling debate, the players raised the debt limit by just enough to avoid an immediate default, (but apparently not a downgrade), and formed a committee of 12, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, Senators and members of the House. Their names are Hensarling and Murray, Kyl and Baucus, Camp and Clyburn, and more. Some are well known, others are not. Some served on last year's presidential debt commission -- and then voted against its recommendations.



These 11 men and one woman are charged with finding the next trillion and a half dollars, or so, in deficit reduction. Their recommendations are due the day before Thanksgiving and must be accepted or rejected by Congress two days before Christmas. If they are not accepted, an automatic "trigger" is set to decimate defense and Medicare spending in such a painful way, the thinking goes, that the SuperCommittee will be forced to find a compromise solution.

One day the story of how this SuperCommittee was selected will be a best seller on Amazon (did Senator Kerry really lobby to be included?) -- but for now, suffice to say that this is shaping up to be the greatest chess game in history. And with some of the highest stakes we'll ever see.

It is also a safe bet to say that it will play out in full view of the media, and specifically with the sight, sound and motion of television once again being the main stage. We live in an age where everything plays out on television, and is, in some way shaped by that fact. And make no mistake about it, every ounce of communication skill, every favor owed by a reporter, every "theatric" will be called upon in order to win. We will experience leaks and brinksmanship, press conferences and posturing as the key moves in this chess match. (Which side will walk out of the meetings first?) You know, all the normal things that come with governance today, in the year before an election.

The definition of checkmate is complete victory, a move constituting an inescapable and indefensible attack. As citizens and involved audience in this next episode of the greatest show on earth, let's hope that our representatives, who are our employees, remember that an acceptable outcome, even for chess masters, is sometimes a draw.

Wouldn't that be a great surprise end game.

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