THE SHAKHMATIST: OPENING MOVE
THE SHAKHMATIST: OPENING MOVE
I AM NOT BOBBY FISCHER.
There can only be one Bobby Fischer, and not only that, but I want to strive for innovation and not just imitation in my games. Fischer himself knew this, and that's why he's considered by many to be the best chess player who ever lived. As for me? I'm a newcomer to the game, and also a latecomer. I've heard it said that if you don't learn something by the age of 10, or at least aren't exposed to it, then you'll never learn it (or at least you'll never learn it as well as those who came to hone a skill as children). Those words haunt my mind, and I can't get them out. As it is, I come to chess at 30. Yesterday was my birthday!
I guess you could say that I was exposed to chess before the age of 10, if only once. I was around nine years old, stuck on the arduous treadmill of a double burden known as OCCUPATIONAL AND PHYSICAL THERAPY. As a child with a disability, I knew all too well the regimens of leg lifts, sit-ups and push-ups, and having to cut out paper circles along thick black lines that got me out of class. In retrospect, I wish I would have stayed IN class, but oh, well. When something's wrong with you, or at least I thought back then, you had to fix that before you moved on to other things. Until that one fateful day...
My therapist brought a chessboard and set it up. "What's this?" I asked.
"Chess," she said.
"Is it like checkers?"
"No. The pieces move in totally different ways."
I was intrigued, but I was also a little scared. In almost all games, there were winners and losers, and chess was one of them. Which one would I be? I knew the answer in my heart, but I didn't want to disappoint my therapist or let her down. Besides, chess was mental and not physical. How hard could it be? Surely it was easier than endless repetitions of calisthenics (or so I hoped).
It was hard. I lost. Not only that, my therapist did seem rather disappointed. She never brought the chessboard again, and I'll never forget the look in her eyes after I lost the game. It wasn't so much, "You lost?" or even "I thought you could do better," but an even worse sentiment: "Maybe this isn't for you."
Chess had captivated me, but I gave myself up as too stupid to play it.
Years passed. I adored Searching for Bobby Fischer and rooted for Screech Powers on Saved by the Bell when he played chess against a Russian kid. Still, the game never really entered my mind beyond the moments when I basked in another's dramatized glory. Then came The Sims 3, a cool virtual-life game...
You could have your Sims play chess. My Sims played chess, and got really good at it! At least, I always made the character that looked like ME get good at it.
Something was missing. I wanted to learn how to play REAL chess, no matter how cool the prospect of making my Sim a Grandmaster was. So, in July of this year, while I was on vacation in Door County, Wisconsin, I asked my Uncle Wesley to teach me how to play. He did. I lost, but something was different...
I had never had so much fun losing in my life.
Chess had captivated me, fascinated me, and it would not let me go. I found myself thinking of moves, fantasizing about my next match against him, having chess dreams. (I still remember the one about the yellow rook stuck in the middle of four teal-blue pawns...) From then on, I'd been utterly set on fire.
I've only won two games so far, and that's with a lot of help and advice. There's a chess tournament coming up in January of next year, and I want to be in it even though I have no right to. Still, the fire's there, and it yearns to spread.
I'm sure not Bobby Fischer, but it turns out we have one thing in common:
The love of the game consumes us. We love to talk about it, write about it, play it, and try to connect chess concepts to the other aspects of our daily lives. I may not have won even 1/1000th of the games he has, but it's there.
I've looked deep, and it's there. Chess, the art form, I love more than victory.