PREVIEW: Chess is NOT an even playing field

Mar 9, 2015, 2:01 PM |

I would like to start off this blog post by quoting a friend and very strong chess player londonsystem22 in his blog post on Sportsmanship:

" One of the main reasons I love chess so much is that your position in life, job, rank, gender, wealth, or AGE has no effect on whether or not you can beat your opponent over the board.  It is a perfectly even playing field of logic and wits."

While what he says is somewhat true, in order to get where you want to be in chess in terms of strength, there is NOT an even playing field for all players who play.

I started playing rated chess games at the age of 16. My first rating was 878 in the Northwest Scholastic Rating System (NWSRS), which is generally much more inflated than USCF, particularly when your NWSRS rating is  < 1600. My parents never supported my chess financially, yet now that I'm 23, I have already played in the Washington State Invitational, won a few tournaments and simuls, and achieved a peak rating of 1920.

However, the road to chess stardom is uneven. Had I started at the age of 6-10, I would have no doubt become a much better player than I am today. If I had parents that were willing to pay for lessons, I would have also been much stronger. Finally, I grew up in Renton and Mukilteo, places where scholastic chess is virtually unknown. But if I had grown up in Seattle or Bellevue, chances are I would have started chess much earlier than the age of 16!

Some people are much more likely demographically to become better chess players than others. Household income and access to tournaments and learning centers (Chess4Life for example, a local company stationed in Bellevue) are definitely deciding factors to whether you become a master (2200) or just play casually at 1500, sometimes never even going to tournaments.

Who knows? The True US Champion could be living in Wyoming, but because his parents are poor and he has no access to chess, he never got to become a better player than he otherwise would had he lived in New York City, and had parents who would be willing to pay for his chess development.