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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Rewards of Chess

You will notice that in rapid succession I have made three straight posts on chess.

This will be no surprise to anyone who has known me over the years, including a fair number that I suspect are unfortunately no longer here. I can think of no subject that I'm more comfortable pontificating on than chess, and part of that is because pitifully few of the pitiful few who see this weblog can reasonably challenge me on anything I might have to say. I've earned that by my fidelity to the game. (Smile!)

This year or the next will mark 60 years since that happy day when I learned the moves. But even so, at 16 or 17, I was late in coming in coming to the game, that is, if one wants to attain masterdom. If you want to do that you usually have to start much earlier, by no later than 10 or 11. (I'm just talking about males here, because those more practical beings, females, to my observation have absolutely no taste for all the nonsense involved.) At 10 or 11 a person still has that natural savagery of the child that is so necessary in being a great chess-for-blood player, plus you are more disposed to spend a lot of time cramming your noggin with all the thousands of necessary opening lines and such. By 16 or 17, on the other hand, a person is already starting to come to his senses, and that blood-thirstiness is starting to be modified as he starts to take on that dim awareness that there are other people in the world than just himself, and he has to take into account how they feel about things, too.

I am not regretful to say that though I came close, I never became a master. Too many things were in my way, especially my lack of a killer instinct. But I found that "kicking butt" is one of the least of the many rewards of playing chess.

Since 1946 or 47, then, I've never gotten far from the game, though periods of years have passed, especially recently, when I haven't played any "serious" games at all, and now my memory is weakening, and I am generally much shakier than I already was even in my "best" days. So I can't say that my experience gives me any real advantage over Rook. I may be more familiar with precedents than he is, so that when one or the other of us gets into trouble, I will most likely sense it earlier. But that doesn't mean that I will necessarily be just as quick to know what to do about it, so I will have to work just as hard as he will, in figuring out just what measures to take. In fact he may have the advantage of not taking things for granted as much as I might.

It all works out, and we'll just have to see. For those psychological considerations alone it will be interesting. This kind of thing is one of the many charms of chess, and the reason why I feel so fortunate in having acquainted myself with this game when I did. Meanwhile, just as NTodd can be praised for having beautified his home page -- for a while -- with a chess diagram, Rook is to be congratulated for his lasting recognition of the joys of chess, as shown by his weblog activities -- his form of prayers at the altar of the bitch-goddess, Caissa.

If you think that term is too strong, then you have never known the exhiliration of finding yourself in severe time trouble after four or five hours of uninterrupted hard thinking during a tournament game and with a bunch of your highly interested competitors looking on and enjoying your agony, and you are desperately praying that you can make all your required moves before the little red flag on your clock falls. That kind of unadulterated terror is one of the purest forms of excitement that there can be.


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