First Blog Post: The Immortal Game--Preface and Introduction

Dec 18, 2007, 11:49 PM |

Hello, interested (a.k.a. bored) blog readers!

This post is my first blog entry of any sort, so please bare with me. I am fairly ignorant concerning chess-related things, but this blog is intended to chronicle my interaction with the game of chess and chess-related material (i.e. The Immortal Game--the eventual topic of this post), and my musings on such interaction.

I was introduced to chess when I was around 8 years old (currently 22) by my uncle's chess board. At the time, I didn't know how the pieces moved, but I certainly enjoyed convincing my cousins that I knew the rules well while I dominated them, making the rules up as I went. My childhood was interspersed with occasional encounters with chess, but my focus remained on sports and books (Yes, an unusual combination, but I never claimed to be normal...).

Fast forward to the fall of 2005. I'm in my second year of college at Freed-Hardeman University, and I'm in Verviers, Belgium with the university's study abroad program. I was here reintroduced to chess after an absence of about 10 years (more than half my life at that point :). The study abroad program was very small. There were 18 students, 2 professors, and their wives, and we all lived in relatively close quarters. Seeing as I  did not know French, I became quite close with a number of the fellows there--three of whom I played chess with. Dispite this reintroduction, I only played sparingly on the Internet over the past two years.

And then while procrastinating writing a brutal 16-page paper, I discovered I normally played chess on but the applet never really agreed with my computer for some reason, and it was being particularly annoying (the procrastinator doesn't usually enjoy being annoyed by the thing he is doing instead of doing the thing he should be doing... Okay, that was confusing--ignore it) so I thought I would look for another place to play chess online. A Google search quickly yielded imagine that... :) What a place for procrastination. Not only does it occupy lots of time at once (I typically have 15-20 games in progress at any given time so I usually have 10-ish moves to make every time I log on), but it also allows me to potentially stretch (<---split infinitive) the procrastination out for months at a time (14 days per move -times- 30 moves per game -equals- ... a lot of procrastination).

So that brings us to The place where I read a review of The Immortal Gameby David Shenk, which I recently picked up at the local Books-a-Million (by local I mean the closest one... which is an hour away). Shenk's book is kind of the opposite of what I just did... I gave you my (a man's) interaction with chess thus far in my life--The Immortal Gamebasically traces chess's interaction with man thus far in its life. As Shenk states it in the subtitle "A History of Chess or, How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Science, and the Human Brain."

What I intend to do over my next several blog posts (which may stretch out over a decent span of time since I'm getting married Saturday) is give you, the reader, some highlights from the book as I work my way through it and give you my thoughts as I go. This may be really fun and I will keep going, or it may be extremely boring for you (or me) and I will just drop it.

So far, I've read the Preface and Introduction to the book. If you've read this far, you are either really interested or really bored... so I'll give you the main thrust of pages XV (First page of the Preface) through 8 (last page of the Introduction). The main idea is this: Chess is addicting. Shenk devotes a significant amount of words to saying that fact. So there. Chess is addicting. Three words. We could have saved a whole lot of trees by doing it my way... (But then we would have missed Shenk's interesting retelling of Duchamp's addiction to chess, the fact that chess has been around for approximately 1500 years, and the fact that Shenk's great-great-grandfather was "chess master" Samuel Rosenthal.)

So there you go, I just saved you the pleasure of reading a good writer's work for thirty minutes by giving you the discomfort of reading my sub-par writing.

You're welcome.