My Journey Back Into Chess

May 24, 2007, 6:39 PM |

 A long time ago, my grandfather said something to me that has stuck in my mind to this day.  He said, "Don't force it, son... "  I can't recall exactly to what he was referring... I believe we were assembling a model car. But the idea is something that even after almost twenty years has never left me.

 I played my first game of chess at the age of 9. (1989)  It was part of rehabilitation I was undergoing for brain injury I suffered in a sports accident.  I was having trouble with my memory recall, concentration, and other aspects of mental acuity.  My step-father at the time told my physical therapist how he used to play chess as a child, and asked if perhaps that would help me.  As you can easily assume, the answer was yes.

 Over the next 8 months or so, I played a lot of chess.  {I also learned to play guitar during this time frame, but that's another blog :) } After the first few months, I noticed I was recalling moves from prior games, whereas I wasn't able to do this initially.  Then I noticed, I was looking 4 or 5 moves ahead for a tactical manuever.  Before I knew it... I was really beginning to feel sharp again. 

 My mother divorced my step-father in late 1991.  My mother, my younger brother and sister, and I all moved into an apartment on the other side of town.  Suddenly, I had no one to play chess with.  My sister and mother abhored chess to no end calling it "boring" and "a waste of time"  My mother was a wonderful person and parent, but she is no scholar.  My younger brother liked to play, but he was only interested in playing for recreation.  I wanted to get better, and better, and better... but I had no opponent.  I didn't play again for 9 years.

 In 2000 I moved into an apartment with a friend I had made a few months earlier.  Living in the same apartment, we discovered that each other knew how to play chess.  We played constantly.  Hours upon hours of each day were spent playing.  We even had a giant poster board on the wall with tally marks indicating wins, losses, and draws for each of our games.  People would come over and party with our other room mate who moved in later... they would be drinking and partying, but we would be right in the middle of the room... playing chess.

 Around 2002 my friend enlisted in the army and moved away.  I spent a lot of time hanging out in a cool little rickety coffee shop in the artsy part of downtown playing guitar, drinking espresso, and playing chess.  I learned a lot about chess there.  I even managed to win a game against a master from Texas A&M who was in town for a tournament at the local chess club.

 For no reason what-so-ever, in 2003 I had a complete and sudden nervous collapse.  I couldn't focus.  I was deeply depressed.  I withdrew from my family and friends.  I moved from Chattanooga, TN to Manhattan, NY with barely enough money to get a bus ticket.  I stayed there, poor and depressed until one day just as suddenly as it has enveloped me... the nervousness left.  I literally just woke up and felt...  better. 

 I moved home with my mother and eventually met a girl named Megan in 2004.  We got married and she has been the best thing to ever happen to me.  A couple of months ago it hit me like a lighting bolt to the head.  I miss chess!!!  So I have been at it with a tenacity and a verocity with which I'm not sure I even understand.  My wife comments that underneath the tension on my face when I'm concentrating on a position (making sure not to "force it") she can see me glowing.  I'm sure it's true, b/c I really do love the game.  I know that now more than I ever understood when I was younger.

 Now, here I am.  Looking for guidance from my peers.  Longing to improve my game.  I spend all day at work thinking about analyzing positions, looking for a better move in my last game.  I feel I've hit a glass ceiling.  I'm not sure I know what to do to really move forward.  If your reading this, and have any suggestions on a study plan, or learning concept... please... let me know.  I will be very grateful!