For a while now I've wanted to try playing chess online. Being terrible at chess as of now, I wasn't even sure I could find a forum where the skill level of players is essentially zero. Plus, I'm a little shy about interacting with strangers online, even if I'll never know who they are and all we're doing is playing chess.
Plan B: tonight, a 2-second "play chess against the computer" Google search led directly to chess.com, where one application allows you to...you guessed it...
Today's New Activity: Computerized Board Game Smack Down
There were 4 levels to chose from. I went with the 2nd level, which is "easy." It quickly became obvious that the first level, "silly" would have been more appropriate. But I went with easy because I actually have played some decent chess matches in the past. It's been about 6 years since I last played though, and also I really don't think I do well playing virtually (at anything, that is). The site does a decent job of making the pieces look more tangible than the flat depictions I've seen in books, but it's still a very different feeling than sitting in front of the board with all the possibilities right there before you.
I have never had the patience to study chess strategies. Any wins I've managed to eek out had to do with just taking a lot of time to think through moves, and probably also with playing against equally unskilled players. In essence, I know how each of the pieces move, and the rules of play (though the "Castle" move still needs to be explained to me every single time), and that's about it.
Thinking about that, though, I remembered *how* I learned the rules of play, which was a trip down Geek Memory Lane. When I was a little girl, I used to play checkers with my Dad. Checkers was fun, but I always wanted to learn to play chess. Watching chess played (and I don't even know where I would have, as a kid. My parents didn't hang out with people who played chess, and it's not exactly a game fit for live coverage on t.v), you get the impression that important decisions are being made. Chess pieces, when moved, land with weight...with authority. You watch people oh so thoughtfully contemplating the options, then moving that piece with dignified gusto and always a hint of fear. It feels as if a move made in a game of chess could somehow matter to the outcome of larger, more pressing issues. In contrast, checkers feels pretty much like flicking candy around until everyone gets bored enough to move on.
Anyway, my Dad told me for years that when I beat him at checkers, he'd teach me to play chess. I think this was a good, fatherly move on his part. But there were two problems with the plan. First, since I didn't care much for checkers, I wasn't exactly challenging him to play me all the time (a necessary part of the deal). I wasn't, therefore, getting any better at it. And secondly, even if I had, I think I didn't stand a chance at beating him any time soon. So, I decided to cheat and sidestep my Dad's seemingly impossible accomplishment/reward system. When I was in high school I stayed after school a few weeks in a row to attend Chess Club meetings. I totally forgot about this until today. I went solely for the purpose of learning the rules, and then never went again. If that is not the Ultimate in Dork Rebellion, I don't know what is.
Back to today. The first game I played was a joke. Check mate in four moves.
I survived a little longer in the second game, but only because I weaseled my King back and forth for some time until they all closed in on me.
There were some rules I'd definitely forgotten until I tried to make moves that the computer wouldn't allow. At least 5 times I was prevented from making a move because you aren't allowed to make a move that puts yourself into check. How civilized. But speaking of that, I find it really annoying that a sometimes hours-long game of chess can end with the words (or the politely unspoken but smugly implied) "check mate," and then you just gaze at the board and contemplate the outcome without ever TAKING the King. C'mon people! Finish the thing. And I'm not even the kind of person who's into rubbing things in or even winning (I was just talking about this the other day...I actually feel kind of guilty when I win at something. I need to look into that, by the way), but still: you've done the work, you've matched wits and strategies and come out on top, go ahead and take that King!
It's nice to know this play-against-the-computer option is out there. I think it would benefit me to practice some more chess play. Engaging in an exercise that forces you to carefully think through the implications of all your next moves has got to be a good rehearsal for life in general. I think most people could benefit from thinking more before they move. And I'll probably be looking for some real life chess challengers soon, so I'm just putting that out there....