Friday, December 14, 2007

My Unified Theory of Chess & How To Enjoy Playing It


I've been playing some Chess on Facebook lately, for the first time in years, and it's inspired me to chuck these pearls out to anybody reading.

My rules are simple, but effective. Follow them, and you will have fun playing chess, and so will the person you're playing against, unless he is an asshole. In that case, only you will have fun.


Or unless "he" is a girl, in which case you're probably living in an alternate universe because I have personally met a grand total of one girl in my entire life who actually enjoyed playing chess. And that was because her father taught her, so it was probably some strange Elektra Complex thing.

I don't dig too deeply into the whole "why girls don't like chess" thing. It's just a fact of life.


So, here are the rules, simple in appearance, only slightly more complex in conceit.

1) If you are playing somebody you think is worse than you, do something risky and crazy as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

2) If you are playing somebody you think is better than you, make things as complicated as possible before either side takes many pieces. Then launch a nutzo ballistic assault with some half-baked and improbable plot for regicide in mind.

3) If you are playing somebody you think is equal to you, or who you have no idea how good they are, then attempt to play a perfect game, meaning, a game where you make no mistakes.

4) Violate any of the rules, if the need arises.

That's it. Like Billy Dee Williams says, "Works every time."



1) If you're playing somebody worse than you, doing something risky and crazy will usually mean that you will wind up losing a valuable piece and getting your game is in trouble. So then you can pull out all the stops and play as creatively and hardcore as you want to try to make a comeback. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Losing is good for your opponent's ego, and you can always console your own with the knowledge that you would have won if you'd played a careful, boring game.

But just as often you'll make that comeback, because when the prospect of losing to an inferior player looms large, suddenly your ego kicks in and you start playing like Kasparov. Or, because your opponent is not that good, he'll make some simple mistake. Often you end up deciding again and again whether to kill that next rook they leave hanging or whatever.

One chance in 10 your crazy initially attack will actually go down more or less as planned. Then you look and feel like a genius, and maybe you learned something for future reference.


2) Making things as complicated as possible levels the playing field. Some bastard that reads books about chess, and practices all the time, is going to beat you nine times out of 10 any way, and 10 out of 10 times if you just trade pieces and he ends up with a one-pawn or positional advantage or something.
So you might as well create a pressure cooker that opens up possibilities for brilliance and/or the unexpected to emerge during a total slaughterhouse. Usually you're still going to lose anyway, but at least you'll see something interesting, and sometimes you get a glorious victory against your superior.
If nothing else, you may make him sweat. My favorite game of my life was against some guy who was bragging about the tournament he was going to play in, how he was going to explain to me how he would beat me while he was beating me, blah blah blah. I lost, sure enough, but not before throwing him totally off his game plan, chasing his king across three quarters of the board like a running dog and nearly pinning him down. I knew I never really had him, but I could see he wasn't sure for abouot 10 minutes or so, and all his talk dried up _ golden.

3) The real point of 3) is to wait until the game resolves into 1) or 2). Usually you'll wind up figuring out you're in situation 2). That's because good players often lie about not being good out of modesty or (worst scenario) in order to trick people into playing them so they can win. Sometimes it will be situation 1) though, and then you just act accordingly.
The only boring game of chess possible is one that continues in 3) mode all the way to the end. It's only happened to me maybe thrice since developing this theory.
(tito slack)
They play "giant" chess every day on Amsterdam's Max Euweplein.

4)A wise young man once told me the following about chess. He said it was a Spanish saying:

"Chess: too much for a hobby, not enough for a job."

1 comment:

Toby Sterling said...

There's also a 5th rule, but I'm afraid I can't tell you what it is.