Monday, 18 June 2012


In keeping with a recent drive, consciously and subconsciously, to vary and augment my range of interests, I have rekindled and revived my interest in the game of chess.

I played quite a bit of chess in my youth, both at school and with family friends.  However, as my teens progressed the game and I drifted apart, as new delights and interests took precedence. Now, I find myself wishing that I had found a way to maintain my participation in the game, as I can see what benefits it can provide, from both an intellectual and a social perspective.

This time around, it is not just the playing of the game which I am appreciating, but also the rich and turbulent history of chess.  The game's current practitioners appear to have some respect and reverence for the game's pioneers and legends, something which is not prevalent in all games and pastimes.

When I first became interested in the game, in the late 1970s, it was the era of Anatoly Karpov and Victor Korchnoi, and I recall the media coverage of the major chess encounters of those times.  I was too young to appreciate and absorb the hysteria and hype surrounding the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky match of 1972, and the inevitable Cold War sub-texts.

I can understand why some people sneer at chess, seeing a pretentiousness and over-intellectualization amongst some of its devotees, but equally the game can mean different things to different people, on differing levels.  It doesn't have to involve a profound existential journey, but can merely be an enjoyable and refreshing means of stimulating the grey matter.

Chess is also one of those pastimes which can be played, and excelled at, by people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.  Often, people aged eight and eighty can play against each other on relatively equal terms, as each can bring different, and complementary, attributes to the table.

When I was young, the playing of chess seemed to be encouraged in schools, but I suspect that times have "moved on", and that this is no longer the case, in Britain at least.  Like many youthful endeavours, it has probably been swamped by the relentless advance of video games and other technological fads. It seems to me, though, that there is a place for chess in our education system.  It can be argued with some truth that it teaches skills and techniques which stand young people in good stead, and accomplishes this task more effectively than some things which are taken for granted as fixtures in "formal" education.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play chess - against my computer....

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