If you are a non-chess player, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. People spend hours staring at a board, intermittently moving around small wooden pieces. There’s little talking, little movement, just a lot of staring and thinking … and smoking. For some reason, a lot of chess players smoke their brains out. My grandfather, the man who taught me chess, seemingly could not play without a cigarette between his fingers. It also made him look rather formidable, what with the constant stream of smoke blowing from his nose.
The legendary Mikhail Tal also smoked non-stop.
If you’ve never played chess, everything I’m about to say will seem strange. Nonetheless, I will try to illustrate the magic of chess, of how it ensnares an unfortunately few and refuses to let them go. Many people play chess, often just as a fun pasttime, but a select few become well and truly obsessed. Continue reading →
Chess is a game, and being a game it should be fun. For the most part it is. Siegbert Tarrasch famously said “chess has the power to make men happy.” At its best, chest certainly does this. Perhaps the happiest moment of my life came when I beat my grandfather at chess, a feat I never thought possible. When you play chess, you play alone. There are no teammates to drop the perfect pass and blow the game. Victory all depends on you.
It took four years and countless games to get that victory, but it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted.
Chess can be a wonderful, empowering thing, but it can be just as easily depressing, defeatist, sadistic torture. It’s an individual game. Yes, all of your brilliance is our your own, but so are your mistakes. If you lose, it was not because of a teammate or the referee or the weather or any of 100 other excuses you can use in any other competition. No, if you lose it’s all because of you. It is your fault, and it can take a lot of mental fortitude to accept that. Continue reading →
After my first chess tournament, I realized how little I knew of chess and how much further I could grow. I wanted to be the best. Indeed, chess had always been one of the rare things I was unquestionably good at, and discovering I wasn’t as good as I thought booth shook me and motivated me. I needed to get better, and it was here I first discovered chess literature. I lived in a rural Canadian town, so it’s not surprising I had never ran into any chess books before. At the local library, I found exactly two. One was Fred Reinfeld’s Winning Chess Openings. It dealt with various specific variations and wasn’t too helpful.