star wars (1977)

The lightsaber, here, is meant to represent a stark contrast to the 'total annihilation' weapons of modern combat. Whereas the empire's weapons (mirroring the weapons of war of the twentieth century) are meant to inflict as much loss of life in as quickly a time as possible for the aims of total domination of an enemy, the old methods of battle were meant to derive honor from combat and a mutual respect amongst competitors. Obi-Wan refers to as "an elegant weapon", from a time when the death of one's opponent was not the ultimate aim of battle. In a more romantic age, a duel with a saber is meant to reflect a chess match, it is more about the battle of wits and the conversation going on between the two players, not so much the pieces on the board which are merely a physical representation of the mental game happening where eyes cannot see. In a telling nod, Lucas also earlier re-frames a chess match aboard the Millenium Falcon as being played with small holographic creatures that bludgeon each other to death. No more is this a gentlemen's game of sport, but a vicious and emotional struggle; Han Solo even remarks that Chewbacca is known to physically assault his opponent if he loses. This is the war practice of animals and tyrants, not of knights and gentlemen, and this point is on full display here. When Darth Vader finally meets his old master, neither emotionally attack one another, but rather engage in a controlled volley of parry and joust. As Vader's first remarks tell us, he has been waiting for this moment with Obi-Wan for decades, and neither is anxious to kill the other. After all these years, they just want to talk over swordplay. 

In chess the purpose of a match is in the interactions with your opponent, you both come together to activate each other’s strategic portion of the brain, to match wits, and to make one another into better people, better chess players, enhance one another’s lives in a sense. When one plays chess against a computer, the goal of the computer is to calculate movements in the game to defeat the human opponent. The act of play, or the act of combat, is a sacred rite by which each combatant enhances the other, finds a balance between themselves and their competitor, does battle with an opposition and, in the end, emerges with a deeper understanding of their opponent and of life.