by Edson J. Cortiano
Yes, that’s right it’s a game played on a board covered with black and white squares. No, no, it’s not the same as checkers! Comparing checkers with chess is like comparing Santos Dumont’s 14-Bis with an F-22 Raptor, or Sinbad with Jacques Tati, or − to put it rather bluntly – comparing that painting of a crying clown your mother hangs in her living room with Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
Chess is the intelligent, charming and noble game that is played with pieces called pawns (soldiers), rooks (castles), knights (horses), bishops, queens and kings. Each of these pieces has a different movement pattern. Batteries not included. You move them by hand and this opens up myriads of scenarios. You can bang you queen down with bravado! Or gently push your pawn forward and attack your opponent’s Knight and Bishop simultaneously! Lotsa fun!
Feminists rejoice: the queen is the most powerful piece of all; now cool off: the king is the most important one!
Chess is a science, an art and a sport. Chess, like music and love, has the magic that makes people happy, said a grandmaster once. But, if chess is all I’m cracking it up to be, how come you don’t play it?
How come Hollywood makes hundreds – if not thousands − of movies about every sport on earth?
- Brian’s Song,
- Jerry Maguire,
- Remember the Titans
- Field of Dreams,
- The Natural,
- Eight Men Out, etc, etc, etc) ,
- hockey (Miracle),
- running (Chariots of Fire)
- and even snooker
- The Hustler
- The Color of Money
But they only made half a dozen decent films about chess
- Searching for Bobby Fischer,
- Dangerous Moves ,
- Queen to Play
- and a couple more.
Is it that chess doesn’t have blood, tears and laughs?
Chess has it all in abundance plus suspense, adventure and competition. Chess has stories of success and failure just as moving as the one in Zeffireli’s The Champion. Chess can be as harrowing as the bloody futuristic sport in Rollerball. In chess you find as much competitiveness and willpower as in Rocky or all the elation and frustration of Steve McQueen as the challenger to the poker champion in The Cincinnati Kid.
Be that as it may, you never see chess on television, not even at the sports channels where they televise even dwarf throwing and cockroach racing and come within an inch of broadcasting jigsaw puzzle assembling contests!
You never read about chess in the papers and magazines. You never chat about it with coworkers and friends the way you do about football, car racing and boxing. Are you really missing something?
Let me tell you two or three things about the hidden world of chess that I hope will stir up your curiosity to the point of driving you to learn the game. Chess is the most popular, the most widespread and the oldest of the games. There are more books on chess than on all other sports and games put together! Chess is inexhaustible: you can revel in it for fifty years and never play the same game twice. Chess is an enigma: it is as intriguing as women are to men and vice versa. No matter how good you are at it, once in a while you’ll get trounced, and you’ll never be so bad that you can’t find someone to whip.
Chess is the gymnastics of intelligence, Goethe wrote. Yet it’s not only your brains that you’ll work out by playing it, you can develop some highly desirable personal traits, too. You’ll need patience and discipline for instance. But, of course, planning your game, calculating your moves and speculating about your partner’s moves can be very stimulating intellectually. It is a dumb misconception; however, to think that only mental giants can play chess well. With practice and a little study, anyone can get to a point where they can play with gusto and also watch and understand other player’s games − even those played centuries ago!
How? Simple: chess moves can be written down. There are two major forms of chess notation, both accurate and easy to learn, that make it possible to keep a permanent record of game. Therefore you can jot down your games and later go over the moves to evaluate the play, determine which moves were good or bad and alternatives to what was actually played. It all works very much like filming your tennis games and viewing the tape to improve your technique.
What’s more, you can “watch” a game played by a N.N. (No Name – an unfortunate unknown player who always gets wiped out) against Greco in Italy around 1625! Or you can follow the world champion’s games against the title challenger. Or you can play a correspondence game with a Chinese from Taiwan or a Curitibano from Paraná. How’s that for variety and flexibility?
Following the fight of the candidates for the world championship could be as exciting as watching the formula I car races − if the media published and commented on the games and interviewed the competitors, that is, if they gave chess the same VIP treatment that they bestow on the others sports.
Did I convince you to turn off the TV, get off that couch and learn the magic game? If so, buy a beautiful chess set (even if you fail to take to the game you won’t have wasted your money, chess sets make very impressive decoration pieces). Get a book for beginners, or search the net for ‘beginning chess’, or go to your local chess club. Teach yourself, your friends, your wife, your husband, your kids, your uncle, your neighbor, your dog. . . everybody.
Set the pieces.
The game is afoot!