Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Majesty of Chess

When I was a kid, my grandfather taught me to play chess. I did play with him, with my father, with an aunt, with the game Chessmaster on my 386 computer. I was feeling very good at it at the time, even if no one was really teaching me the theory behind the game. Then I suddenly stopped, mainly for lack of people to play with.

But now I have found a new friend with a passion for chess and he reignited my original curiosity about this game. I've started to learn about the different openings, the theory behind them, the principles of chess and the way a person must prepare for really playing the game, end games and famous players and games. I still suck at chess, but at least I am better than most of my acquaintances and I think this is a little more than my usual one minute flames. I really am enjoying the academic side of the game and I believe the discipline required to truly play chess will transpire into other facets of my life, especially programming.

So, my plan is to learn more and share with you my findings. I am creating a new tag, chess, which will mark the entries discussing the game. I still have to learn how to embed chess tables in the entries and to learn enough to feel comfortable sharing my ideas with other people, so bear with me. If you are interested in the subject, please leave me a comment with your view on it.

So far I have looked for chess videos to teach me things. I find them most instructive while I am not yet used to reading a game as text and imagining it in my head (I doubt I ever will). Also a great resource is the game Chessmaster XI, the last version of the game I was playing against as a child. It features three academies, teaching the basics of the game as well as a natural language mentor that can analyse and explain some of the features of a game. Josh Waitzkin, the international Grand Master and the subject of Searching for Bobby Fischer, a fascinating man, is the guy that explains things in the first and most complete academy module. His book, The Art of Learning, seems really interesting and I will review it soon.

As chess resources go I've found these wonderful sites:
  • The Chess Website, the site of Kevin Butler, who is a very nice guy.
  • Chess Videos TV, where you may find great information in video format, but you must sift through the ones that have either bad audio quality or the presenter is too heavily accented.
  • JRobi Chess, where you can find an actual study plan, three daily chess puzzles and an embedded chess game in Java.
  • is a site with reasonable resources, but it's strong point is the huge chess community and interesting forums. People from all over the world compete against each other and discuss the game

There are others, but less important. Bottom line: I am starting to blog about chess, too. I will leave you with a chess story that I really liked. It is about Bobby Fischer, the only American world champion at chess, with a very interesting and dramatic personal story. This one is about a chess opening called The King's Gambit. In 1961, Fischer writes an angry essay against this opening, called A Bust to the King's Gambit, allegedly annoyed by Boris Spassky who defeated him while using this opening. He publishes this article in the American Chess Quarterly, edited by one Larry Evans, also an international chess master. In 1963, Bobby Fischer is playing against Larry Evans, in the U.S. Chess Championship. He starts with the King's Gambit and wins. The moral of the story here, for me, was that chess is something that explodes off the board and into the real life. Competitive chess players mold their game strategy before they start the game, by preparing against the opponent as warriors would do before a battle, by analysing the flaws in previous games, in character, in personal history. In just three moves, Fischer told Evans "I am starting with an inferior opening. That is just how much I think of you!", striking a subtle blow even before starting to play.

Watch the analysis of the game as well, by Kevin Butler. Enjoy!


Ignat Andrei said...

At RONUA make a chess game with me. I play usually white...

Siderite said...

I would like that very much.