Chess in all its Forms
I was so happy to learn that one of my enjoyed passtimes was very good for the brain. Studies have shown that Chess raises IQ by 5 points!
Later on, however, I became frustrated that computer programs had become able to beat humans with increasing ease. For me, this meant some defect in the game - perhaps it was too simple. Or at least, shouldn't humans be working at levels beyond the computer, or on levels that computers cannot?
In any case, through my own choice, I completely gave up the game of Chess for the beautiful game of Go quite some time ago. I've included a picture in case you hadn't seen it. My introduction to Go some some simple games with a high-school friend and a handful of others in my first year of university. Some time later, I took it up with intense vigor as I studied the game and spent countless hours playing, first at local Go-clubs, with friends, at yahoo.com, and in the end, mostly at Kisedo (www.gokgs.com).
After I started planning on going to China a few years back, I also picked up Chinese Chess after some intense study and practice to the point where it is nearly on par with my Western Chess, though I did not invest nearly as much time in the game, and do not prefer it to Go.
Still, if given the choice between Western Chess and Chinese Chess, I choose Chinese Chess. Playing helps me improve my game, and I want to improve to the point where I could actually raise a challenge if I were to sit down with some of the die-hards that play with intensity out in the public streets.
It seems, however, even in China, that there's an occasion for Western Chess every month or so, and I rarely raise a fuss, and never decline. (i.e. The Western Chess is requested by my opponent! Seems there are people who study Western Chess out of their love for foreign countries, and their joy for learning it has them coming back for many more games than they'd be playing if it was Chinese Chess! Then of course, there's an occasional foreigner here and there that likes to play... ;)