source: The Willits News March 2, 2017
I have been a gamer all my life. From board games to card games to
video games to role playing, I love all kinds, every kind of game, and I
probably have tried most at one point or another from “Risk” to
“Dungeons and Dragons” to “Magic The Gathering,” but there is one game
that has had a hold on me for years and has been a constant throughout
my life: the venerable game of chess. I often drive the rain soaked
streets in Mendocino County looking for a game.
Ever since my dad
taught me how the pieces move when I was 10, I have been enthralled by
the complexities of the royal game, although I didn’t always play it. I
took a long break from the game, not because I wanted to but because
life got in the way, but I rediscovered it in college and have played it
on and off ever since.
The beauty of chess, apart from the fact it offers many
intellectual rewards, is also that you can play it anywhere and
everywhere. In Russia and most European countries, the game is almost
like a religion, I have read people play it on trains, in the park, and
kids partake of it at school as part of their curriculum. Nowadays you
can play over the board face to face against your opponent or on the
internet and even on a smartphone through an app.
Most people who
do not partake of the hobby don’t realize that chess has its own
language. Actually, it has many languages, although there are two types
of notation, the descriptive and the algebraic. The former was replaced
by the latter for ease of use. This notation works by naming the squares
where the pieces move on the 64 square board.
It is chess notation that allowed people to play “postal” chess
for years prior to the advent of the internet. In postal or
correspondence chess, a person will mail their move to another player
and wait to receive the other player’s response. A game could take
months or even years this way, but the advantage is you did not have to
be next to the other player. It also allowed players to enjoy centuries
old games and to play over historic matches by replaying the moves of
their favorite recorded games printed in books and in newspapers and
The rise of the world wide web in the 1990s changed a lot in the
global society and chess was no different. All of a sudden more people
could instantly face each other in fierce battles over the web, internet
clubs sprang up as did forums and websites dedicated to strategy and
preserving the history of the game. Software which helped with
instruction became popular and tournaments, which had once been
exclusive to over-the-board play suddenly were also happening online.
play chess occasionally with my college buddy Michael Chen, even though
he resides 536 miles away in Southern California. We play using
correspondence through Facebook and he routinely beats me.
Throughout history many famous people have played chess and the
chess world has produced its share of celebrated characters and players.
Benjamin Franklin was said to have loved the game. He famously said
once, “We learn from chess the greatest maxim in life - that even when
everything seems to be going badly, we should not lose heart, but always
hope for a change for the better.”Another temperamental player,
after losing an intense match is said to have grabbed his opponent’s
king, hurled it across the room and shouted, “Why must I lose to this
When I was growing up I was fascinated and read about the great
chess champions of all time. There was Jose Raul Capablanca, the great
Cuban master who was also ambassador for Cuba during his lifetime and a
world champion in 1920. There was the U.S. champion Bobby Fischer who
took on the Russian monopoly of the game and won the world title in 1972
in Reykjavic Iceland in dramatic fashion against the best Russian
master Boris Spassky. The celebrated match was like a heavy weight
boxing fight to chess lovers, and a microcosm of the Cold War.
In 1996 in Philadelphia, another historical chess match
enthralled the world. This one featured chess champion Gary Kasparov
playing against a super IBM computer dubbed “Deep Blue.” It marked the
first time a chess playing computer defeated a world champion in a
classical game under tournament regulations. The match captured the
attention of millions and brought a renewed interest in the ancient
No one knows who invented it, but the game has been played
for centuries by aristocrats, by diplomats and by scholars. I personally
travelled by bus for several hours once to Santa Monica beach where
there is a section of benches and old Russian masters who play on a
daily basis. On another occasion, I was in New York City in the famous
Washington Square Park, killing time while waiting on a flight back
home. I thought it was a good idea to play one of the old guys in the
park, perhaps I could give them a good game?
I don’t recommend it. Fastest $5 I ever lost.
are sometimes stereotyped as uber geeks, but in my experience this is a
misconception as I have met chess players of every age, creed and walk
of life during my lifetime. Chess players have a sense of humor. One
player told me this joke: A man and a dog were seen playing chess
together in a park. One person remarked, “Wow, that’s a clever dog.” The
man retorted, “He’s not so clever, I beat him three out of four games.”
try to find a chess club or gaming store everywhere I go. Ukiah has one
and so does Willits. The Willits gaming store has almost every role
playing, card and board game available and there are games happening on
week nights and on the weekend. I have not seen chess players there.
I am still searching for over-the-board opponents to play during my free time. Come on Willits, it’s your move.