I was taught how to play chess by my father. He had a great set that had a variety of Romanesque statues as the various pieces. There was a weight and a drama to the pieces themselves that made the game seem alive. He taught me the basic moves and proceeded to beat me every time we played. It turned out to be good practice for later in life. Eventually I grew bored of the real thing and preferred to play Battle Chess on the computer because the pieces actually fought one another!
A True Champion
In 2005, I was in Kuwait for a year as a platoon leader. I met a guy who was a member of the all-Army Chess team. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. His office was an interesting sight. He had 4-6 boards set up at any given time around the room with either games he was playing or old games or puzzles he was studying. For 365 days, I played this guy at chess nearly every night, sometimes two or three times a night.
I never won a single game!
I thought I came close once, when I took his queen, but he proceeded to beat me without it.
As with any of my obsessions, I decided the answer was to buy as many books on the subject as I could possibly find. Some of them were recommended by my friend but way above my level as a beginner. I started with Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
I really thought that this book was a great introduction to a deeper level of the game. After many games (not all of them against the champ!) I finally managed to find myself in the situation Fischer shows at the end of the book where I could sacrifice into a 3-to-mate against another novice. I wasn’t great but I was getting better.
My next book was a monster titled Chess: 5334 chess problems, combinations and games.
This book was my first in depth look at end games and tactics. I feel like this book really took my game to a higher level. From simple check-in-ones all the way up to more tricky problems like create an advantage, this book really helped me excel against average chess players.
The third book I bought was too much for me and still is. I bought, on my friend’s recommendation Jeremy Silman’s How to Reassess your Chess.
This book was basically a PhD when I was only a high school student in chess terms. It was simply too much for me to process. I still have the book and hope to work up to it, but I ain’t there yet! I’ve read the first couple chapters, but it’s over my head for now.
Today, someone recommended a new series to me. There are nine books in the Yusupov’s Chess School. I’m going to start with book 1, while playing games on lichess.org and chess.com until I decide which one I like better.
I recently bought a playstation chess game, but I’m having a hard time adjusting to a digital board. I have a great Staunton set that I’ve used for several years now along with a clock that I use for live play.
And an xbox game for chess called Chess Ultra. I’ve done the puzzle but haven’t tried to play any games yet. My problem with these video game versions is that I have a hard time finding other players to play with.
And So, We Press On
As with most of my hobbies, I tend to cycle back around to them eventually. I’m drifting back into a chess phase. Maybe I’ll even get to the point where my Silman is useful! If you’re a chess player, drop me a line; perhaps, we can play. I’ve ordered the first book in the Yusupov series and I’ll let you know how it works out for me!