chess, more chess, then some

Jul 22, 2009, 3:43 PM |

Today is a record day for me - I haven't played a single game of chess - well, almost. I have made a number of moves in some of my online games but that's about it all. I dont know how to put it, really, but sometimes I feel that chess can shackle the brain - you end up thinking about it too much and, as Karpov very intelligently noted in one of his interviews regarding Bobby Fischer's refusal to defend his title in 1979 - 'it's only a game, after all'. There's an implicit warning there - forget that simple fact and you'll end up giving it way too much importance. Mind you, it's not just me who's saying this - the Scientific American in 1859, during the Morphy boom, had this to say of the game:

“A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this? It may be asked. We answer, chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises—not this sort of mental gladiatorship.”

Well, I disagree personally, as I disagree with Einstein's description of chess as an 'intensely antagonistic mental activity', a quality which made him hate the game. In fact, it is said that when his friend Edward Lasker presented him with one of his books on chess, Einstein allegedly answered 'Why does a man of your intellect waste his brainpower on such trivia?'

I disagree but I have to grant Einstein that the game does inspire strongly negative feelings in some people. I mean, no one likes losing and there is a distinctly bad feeling when you realize you're landed with a hopeless position, but is it really so strong that you cannot restrain yourself from typing 'f... you' or, as one guy did yesterday, ' 5 2 games' he wrote, after I beat him, 'are for faggots, faggot'. Or, even more ridiculous was this guy whose rating was something like 300 less than mine - he played horribly, leaving half of his pawns hanging and then, finally, allowed me to pick his rook (all of this without skewers, forks, etc - it was all easy like picking flowers from a garden). When I captured his rook, he resigned and then typed 'You are using a programm' What? I didnt know if to laugh or what...I did the analysis after the game and found that the computer would have obliterated him in less than 10 moves, obviously.

But the worst case I've come across is the opposite situation and this would make a strong case for Einstein's judgement. I played against this guy called 'feet', who is really good - his rating is 100 higher than mine and he's a killer at chess. I mean, I realized I was losing by move 11 or so but I continued playing because it gives me pleasure to see good players perform, even if at my expense:) Anyway, after some brilliant manoveouring with the bishops (worthy of Anderssen any day) he ripped up all the light and dark squares around my King and I had no choice but to resign. So there I was, ready to type 'gg - you're incredibly good' in sincere admiration when the arrogant bastard writes 'do you feel my feet?' and closes the window. I was flabbergasted. Well, not for long cos I  soon got back to the guy and sent him a message saying that, given his country's reputation for cleanliness, he should make sure he washed his feet before asking someone to feel them. A racist, spiteful comment, I know, but who's to blame for it?

I hope the answer is not chess. Anyway, thank God there's more to do on than play the game. The tactics trainer calls. Bye.