Chess – geeks only please

I’ve always enjoyed chess, but I am by no means a grand master. I’m the type of player who has done some informal studies and developed a certain play style able to hold my ground in class D games.

Now its true in school anyone who was into chess in a big way would join a chess club and because of this instantly be labeled as a GEEK. When I went to school, this was before being a GEEK was cool, this was before it was hit to be square, and before shows like Beauty and the geek. I didn’t join any chess club instead played the game mainly at home and sometimes with a small selection of friends.

What I have never really understood is how the game of chess gets so quickly discredited as a “game for geeks” and worse how few people can actually play the game.

Chess originally a game played by kings is timeless. It offers exceptionally well balanced game play, right up until the very end. The actual game is divided into 3 stages (opening, middle and end game). Its worth mentioning its a 2 player game, but with computers simulations readily available, it can be practiced and enjoyed solo. As of Windows 7, Chess has even been included as part of the default selection of OS Games (Chess Titans).

Having said all this, its disheartening to see the game not getting the true attention it deserves. Without starting a gender war, there is an obvious distinction in how the game is viewed by woman. Now its true I’ve never met any Russian woman, and so I can’t comment on their interpretation of the game, but for the most part western woman just think the game sucks balls. Go ahead and try find a a woman who can play chess, Taiwanese lady boys excluded! Don’t be surprised if you turn up empty handed, asking a woman to play chess is like asking a man to knit a jersey, sure you’ll find exceptions, similarly you might find protestants living in Rome.

Men on the other hand have no excuse, we’re supposed to be the logical and practical ones. With most of our muscle flexing jobs now done by machinery, the majority of us now work in the service sector, and we’re forced to use our brains. We may be using our brains, but are we intellectual? Clearly most of us don’t have a clue on the chess board, and it seems only a handful of people around the world can play the game effectively.

So why is it, when you ask someone for a chess game the response you get is – “Oh please God, no!” or “Chess, no thanks too much thought involved for me”. Remember we’re talking about educated people with one or more degrees under their belt. People with an IQ that exceeds that of the men we trust to run countries!

Here are a few theories I’ve slapped together:

  1. Primarily we’re raised to believe that chess is a game played by geeks and sport is played by the real heroes, or the real men. Notice how much press sport gets over intellectual activities. It all starts with schooling and its definitely about time management. Hardly any school kid has the time to be active in 2 sports, study and still pick up 2 weekly chess meetings. So kids are forced to choose, either get physical or get intellectual. Its not a very hard choice for most, chess was / is and always will be a game labeled for geeks in the western culture.
  2. Chess is misunderstood, and I believe this is why most woman don’t play it. Its not a game that offers a lot of instant gratification. To win in chess against a player who can actually play the game, you need to see the whole board and win a series of small micro victories which overall will strengthen your position.
  3. Learning Chess is boring for most, and no doubt, this is because hardly anyone has ever had a formal chess lesson or really understands the game. So we are taught by people who for the most part, just know how to move the pieces around on the board.
  4. There is a misconception that chess can be played and won using pure creativity. People always think that the more clever person will win at a chess game because they demonstrated the most creative and intellectual game play. People who think like this play less or never because Chess makes them feel stupid. Unfortunately for a lot of people they’ll never realize the game is governed mainly by principles and without a sound knowledge of this principles its nearly impossible to win a chess game against someone who understands and plays by these principles primarily.
  5. People say great chess players visualize X moves in advance. Mostly people who can’t actually play chess circulate these rumors and the value of x is usually around 8-10 moves in advance. I would say at grand master level its essential to have acute visualization skills, but for social game play, you should typically be able to look ahead no more than 3-4 moves and win. Its far more crucial to understand the principles of chess, and in my understanding, just about everyone has the potential to learn these rules, not just those of us gifted with strong visualization skills.

I hope this post has in some small way changed your perception of chess, if you want some decent instruction on how to play the game I would suggest getting hold of a copy of Chess Master GrandMaster edition for PC (Ubisoft), this has great interactive chess lessons with voice instruction.

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