Chess

Check! Check! Check! Checkmate! Chess is an important game to me, as it helped me fit in with peers during schooling, and it also proves to be a fun pastime on various vacations that my family takes.


My dad was in to chess for a long time. I remember seeing a brown box with a picture of a guy playing chess in the basement when my family lived on Shippensburg Rd. The chess set in the brown box was my dad’s chess set from when he was growing up, and I learned to play initially on that board.


One fall day during sixth grade, my dad taught me how to play chess. Chess is a complex game to learn how to play, as there are several types of pieces, and they are moved differently. Pawns were the most recognizable pieces at first, as many games use them as their playing tokens.


After a while I got my own chess board which was a Pressman chess set with a red box and plastic pieces. This is the chess set that I took into elementary school when I started to play there. Chess helped me socially at school. Previously at recess, I would keep to myself. With the introduction to chess, now I would sit at the top of the set of steps on the playground with some friends and play chess. Sometimes I would play, and other times I would watch them play. Chess would also give me an activity to do during indoor recess, where we would play at the big round table in the back of the room. Sometimes there would be multiple chessboards, and four of us would play, and the winners would then match off against each other.


The friend I got close to sixth grade year was a great chess player. His skills blew my meager ability out of the water since I was learning the game at the time. When I would play chess with him, I would always lose. When watching him play against other friends, sometimes I would learn some interesting moves. Two of the most interesting things I’ve learned about chess from him was the four-move checkmate and the extremely rare two-move checkmate. This move surprised everybody at the table who was either playing or watching and was only performed a few times over the two years I played chess with them.


My family had a chess game for the computer. Our first game was Battle Chess. Mom wasn’t impressed with the violence in the game (we weren’t aware that the game would be violent when it was bought). Not surprisingly, a tamer chess game titled Checkmate appeared, and we started to play it. I learned quickly that it’s hard to beat the computer. Even “setting” the board up with extra queens for the non-computer player, or using the keyboard shortcut for “Move Now” had no effect on leveling the playing field. The computer would still win. My friend from sixth grade tried playing against the computer the following year and was stumped. He also tried having the computers play against each other which was a disaster, as it took a long time for each side to move.


For my twelfth birthday, Mom decorated my cake with a chessboard made with green and yellow icing. Actual plastic chess pieces were placed on some of the squares. I also received as a gift, my own wooden chessboard with wooden pieces. I played a game of chess with my dad on the new board. Partway through, he distracted me by saying in a sing-songy voice, “I have a plan up my sleeve,” which caused me to make a foolish move and lose my queen, which is the most powerful piece in the game! Mom wasn’t happy with Dad’s trick. Years later my brother and I would incorporate this tactic into our games adding “A plan to take your queen.” That same summer, I also would sit in the closed in porch we had and play chess against the computer on a computerized chess set that my dad received for his birthday. It was a small handheld game and red lights along the side would tell the coordinates of every move that was made. This included the computer’s move so that the player could move those pieces as well.


During seventh grade I continued to play chess. At lunch I brought a plastic chess set, and my friends and I would play after we were done eating. We also got permission to play in the school library. When the school bus dropped us off at school in the morning, there was a waiting period where students would wait in the auditorium until it was time for homeroom. Eventually during this time, we started to play chess in the library. As we got there, we would head to the library and played chess until the bell dismissing students to homeroom rang. A chess piece was lost once during lunch, and another friend of mine made me a small brand-new chess set out of wood to make up for the lost piece! It was a nice and compact chess set. The chess set was a small box. The board made up the lid, and all the pieces were stored inside. I appreciated the nice gesture, and thought the board looked very nice. I started to use this board at lunch.


Two other interesting highlights concerning chess during seventh grade included playing chess late into the evening in a wooden tower-house in my back yard on March 25th with my friend. We also played chess all day at our school’s activity day as part of the May Day celebration which was held on May 2nd, 1994 (May 1st was on Sunday that year). In the case of the latter, chess was originally supposed to be a planned activity for the event. My friend and I signed up to participate in the chess event. For whatever the reason, other students didn’t sign up for the event, which almost canceled it. I really didn’t have an interest in the other offered events, and didn’t want to sit in a study hall all day, so chess was “kept” and only two of us played.


At some point, Dad also taught Dave, my brother, how to play chess. Once Dave learned to play well enough, I enjoyed playing chess with him. I was the better chess player up until I entered college, when Dave overtook me by having a chance to play chess regularly at lunch like I did in seventh grade. Being at college, and lacking adequate social skills, I did not meet new people, so I didn’t play chess all that much. For a while Dave and I were both in college at the same time. Mom gave us a suggestion of how to meet people. We could take a chess board to the Student Union Building (called the CUB at Shippensburg University), and sit at one of the tables and play chess. The idea was for the game to attract attention of other chess players ultimately being a way to reach out to other people. The original person we both met, was due to playing chess. The three of us would meet at the CUB and play chess. This introduction cemented a friendship at the college years and led to meeting a small group of people we hung out with during the rest of my years in college.


For many years now, we have taken a chessboard on vacations. I have played chess against both Dave and also Dad. Dave still will always beat me when I play. When I play against Dad, I often win, but sometimes will lose due to making a dumb move and not being able to recover from it.


Similar to its predecessor, Nintendo, chess has also been a helpful tool for me, when it comes to social interaction. I might not be a social butterfly or be great at talking to people, but chess has helped me at school by giving me something in common with my peers. It has also served as an enjoyable activity to partake in during vacation.

The URL for my blog is www.tomstidbits.net.