I remember getting a teach yourself chess book for Christmas when I was a kid. It was filled with fantasy art illustrations of brave knights battling evil queens, rows of brave pawns holding the line against advancing bishops, and cowardly kings hiding behind the walls of their castles.
It immediately appealed on at least three fronts. One, the artwork fired my imagination, helping me to envision a world beyond the cardboard and plastic chess set that accompanied the book. Second, it was a game that had (relatively) simple rules, but was deeper than anything I’d encountered before. And third, here was a game that was centuries old, played by kings and common folk alike, the world over, transcending culture, language and time.
Art, gaming and history, all rolled into one. How could it not appeal?
So I learned, I played, and played some more. I never got really good at it. My magpie mind used it as a branch from which to take off and scavenge for more games, ones that emphasised the fantasy and the imagination. It returned with games like Dungeons & Dragons and very early computer games, and chess went back in the cupboard.
Until very recently.
So yes, I’m one of the ones that’s got back into chess because of the rather excellent The Queen’s Gambit. Mea culpa.
But I’ve also got back into it as my love of art, gaming and history have never left me. If anything, they’ve got deeper.
And chess has returned to my life, welcoming me with its deceptively simple setup and its acceptance of the fact that I’m still rubbish at it.
Of course, time has moved on. I’m no longer bound to books and the couple of chess-playing friends I had back when I was a kid.
Now I have chess.com
And that’s been a revelation. Online chess platform, training tool, chess hub and social network all rolled into one, it’s definitely a one-stop shop for all things chess-related.
And wow, there is a lot of chess-related stuff out there now. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given how popular Twitch streaming of video and tabletop games are, but there’s a huge subculture of chess streamers, personalities and cool young grandmasters that are a million miles away from the Cold War-era titans of the game with their dark eyes and furrowed brows.
Chess is (or at least appears to be) cool. Not that being cool or uncool ever bothered me that much (geek for life), but it’s fascinating to witness.
Equally fascinating (and equally addictive) is my rediscovered passion for the game. Chess.com is the paramount reason for that, with its mobile apps and website meaning I’m never without a player (real of computerised), or a platform that I can dip in to try and solve a puzzle or watch a lesson.
I’m still not at the level where I’m watching other people play or analysing my own games yet, but I get the sense that’s coming. Especially as I am definitely addicted to nurturing my paltry rating and watching it (hopefully) grow out of its low noob rank into the domain of the moderately half-decent.
And especially as I can feel that link between myself now and myself as a child, connected by a sixty-four black & white squares and a trio of passions that have never, ever left.