The long road back

Jul 17, 2011, 11:45 AM |

It's been 36 years since I played my last "real" game of Chess and I thought it might be fun if I chronicled my re-entry into the game. Back then I was a part of the Bobby Fischer madness that gripped the US. Americans were basking in the joy of Fischer's success over the hated Russians and taking up the game in droves. You couldn't go into a store without finding chess sets for sale, it was a magic time and I jumped in with both feet.

After two years of studying and playing I was able to reach a Michigan Chess Association rating of 1460 so I never was really that good, but I had a lot of fun. I played in two team tournaments, the first of which was a disaster but I won all of my games in the second except the last. To be fair, I didn't play the last game. Something happened and I got bumped. Life is precarious when you're playing the last board on the last table. I really wanted to play. I was ready to play. The experience of being bumped upset me so much that I walked away from the game and never played again. I often wondered what would have happened if I stuck with it.

I'm older now and realize that, at age 64, I'll never be a great chess player. I just want to get back to where I was and my goal now is to be able to beat 1600 players. There's a point you reach in your chess journey where the game begins to "make sense". You develop plans, begin to see patterns, feel the game and suddenly you feel like you can play! The best it ever got for me is when the only thing that existed was the position on the board. My peripheral vision dissolved, there was no sound and when the outcome of the game became clear I can recall snapping out of my trance. 

All of that is long gone.

A couple weeks ago I decided to visit the local chess club just to get a feel for the vibe there and wound up playing two games. It was embarrassing. I lost both and actually made an illegal Knight move in the first. But I played and went back the next week after doing a lot of reading and playing over some of my old games. I lost both games, but at least I didn't make any illegal moves. Long road ahead.

Next meeting is tomorrow. I've been studying. I'll play again.

Here's a game I played in March of '76. A game in which I beat the guy who taught me the game. Yea, I know I'm giving up the initiative on my second move but keep in mind that in 1976 the Sicilian wasn't quite as analyzed as it is today and club players weren't ready to be taking out of the main lines this early in the game.