Many, many decades ago, I learned the fundamentals of chess. I’m not sure if this happened at my own request or if my dad simply declared it a fundamental life skill. But he made sure I knew where the pieces started, how they moved, and the basics of strategy.
We played a fair number of games together. I always lost, of course, but then again, I was only two years old.
Haha. Actually, I was more like twelve years old, but I’m not joking about always losing. Sure, it’s a complicated game. And yeah, I was very early in my chess-playing career. But none of that meant I had set my feet on the path of a lifetime losing streak.
Then one day it happened. I began with pawn to king four, he countered, I played, he advanced, and after an unknown number of moves I looked down at the board in wide-eyed disbelief and declared “checkmate.”
And that was the last time I won a game of chess.
For whatever reason, it’s a mental blind spot for me. As vastly intelligent and incredibly humble as I am in many other areas, being able to “strategize” a chess game simply isn’t in my wiring.
They say that grandmasters are able to see many, many moves ahead. My problem is that I can barely see two moves behind. Let alone plan anything. I move through a chess game with all the skill and foresight of a person fumbling for a flashlight during a power outage.
Even so, I wasn’t prepared for something that happened to me last year. Thinking I might try to actually learn something, I found an online chess site. They had a number of lessons and tutorials for all skill levels. To begin, you either had to choose your own level or — this is the cool part — play through a game after which the site would determine your proper course.
I chose the latter. “Stand back, everyone. I’m about to do chess.” I began with pawn to king four, the software countered, I played, it advanced, and after an unknown number of moves the game abruptly stopped and said, “Got it! Click next to continue your chess training.”
Eagerly I clicked next only to be humiliated with: “Lesson Zero. This is a pawn. It can move one space forward, or two spaces forward on its first move…”
The silver lining in all this: so many hours of my life recovered which I can now spend on other things. Heck, I may even start a blog.