Chess and I go way back, back to when I was just a kid and a world of full of possibilities lay before me. My good friend, Richard, taught me the rules and showed me a few moves; but my interest would wane until late in high school when I was elected president of our school's newly-forming chess club. This honor was bestowed upon me chiefly because I was the only senior to show up for the organizational meeting.
I can distinctly remember taking the bus to the local library to spend an hour or two scanning through the old volumes of game collections, having to get used to reading the awkward descriptive move annotations, but being amazed at the uncanny attacks and wild mating schemes deployed by the likes of Paul Morphy, Adolf Anderssen, Jacques Mieses, David Janowksi, Johannes Zukertort and others.
My romance with chess was a fickle one during the 60s, but soon the fire burned brightly again: this American named Fischer was playing for the World Championship of chess. I was in graduate school by now, and a number of us would challenge and play the professors - all of us undoubtedly inspired by Bobby who would win the title in grand fashion.
I can remember distinctly seeing Bobby on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in November of 1972, just after his defeat of Boris Spassky. Yes, he exuded an awkward self-confidence but you could still sense that the celebrity of the moment was not lost on him. Nixon may have won reelection a few days earlier, but all we cared about in my circle was the new World Chess Champion: Robert James Fischer.
Alas, the romance faded about the same time that I got a real job after completing graduate school and Fischer failed to defend his title. It would be many years before I took out a chessboard again - the mid-to-late 1980s. A friend at work started a chess club there and hooked me in. That was the first time I was introduced to rated tournament chess play. The adrenalin rush from having to out-think one's opponent was raised to a new level with my introduction to OTB-rated chess. If I thought I was a cerebral person, I found out that I was just a piker. I also found out that you couldn’t judge the strength of your opponent from the cut of his clothing, the smell of his breath, or the make of his car. Chess transcends all that. I was scalped more that once by a player I judged to be an easy mark. I would go on to win my share of trophies and dollars, but always in my lowly Class C domain, where we think we know something about this game but really haven't much of a clue.
I have always found it amazing how some have a gift for the game and others of us must work intensely to understand a tiny bit of the mystery of chess. Still, perhaps we find the greatest joy in surpassing our own previous efforts, regardless of how these might pale compared to that of others. Indeed, the acumen and accomplishments of others can motivate us as well. For example, I used to put on a VHS of Searching for Bobby Fischer before heading off to the tournament hall for a weekend battle with the game - and my opponents. It never failed to inspire.
Chess transcends not only class but also all attempts to define it precisely. Is it only a game, or is it sport? Does playing chess improve one’s thinking? Or do thinkers gravitate to the game? Has the game of chess been relegated to the junk heap because a lowly computer beat the World Champion, or has it been enriched by the intensely steep learning curve that can be pursued by the young through use of technology? Even if I have opinions on these questions, those would not be answers but simply a description of only one facet of this rich game. Indeed, even after the early automobile beat a racehorse for the first time, neither autos nor horse racing were tossed into the junk heap of anachronism.
One of the grandest riches chess offers is the joy of playing the game from our youngest days to our final days. While I may be closer to the latter than the former, and though my reasons for playing the game have changed in some ways, I look forward to the joy that each game of chess offers me, and hope that you will get as much or more from your years with the game as I have.
Postscript: Playing chess here at chess.com has been more than a delightful way for me to continue my romance with this great game. The ownership, staff, helpers, and especially the chess.com community continue to make playing chess a real treat. I've been to all the other sites. This place is special. So, if you find me here - with a few minutes to spare - let's play a quick game, and continue the romance.