Chess Games

I was taught how to play chess when I was pretty young.  I didn’t actually learn how to play until a few years ago.  The set we had was hand carved marble from Japan.  Each one about 3 inches high, ornate and heavy.  The rooks were pagodas, the emperor and empress sat on huge thrones guarded by samurai.  Staring with my eye at their level it sort of looked like a battlefield.  I had more fun pretending there were stories attached to the forest of pieces than I ever had actually playing the game.  I just never connected with chess the way chess players connect…Sort of like engineers.  I mean, I get it, but I don’t get it.

I think politicians like to fancy themselves chess players.  They’re planning moves, polling, fund raising, advertising, smiling, kissing babies.  They have their end game all planned out.  Every contingency.  Calculated and premeditated.  Move by move.

From what I’ve been able to gather the two important factors to being able to play chess are pattern recognition and thinking ahead.  But how far ahead?  Some people say thinking three moves ahead is a bare minimum.  Some people think the further you can process ahead, the better you must be.  Grandmasters on the other hand say you only need to see one move ahead.  The right one.     Of course!

The way computers process a game of chess entails working through every move and every possibility.  That’s why it took so long to build a computer capable of actually challenging a good chess player.

A human player can automatically filter out certain strategies right off the bat by pattern recognition alone.  They’ve seen the move before; are familiar with the opening or the end or the inbetween.  Maybe they just recently played someone who used a similar strategy.  Even just having the ability to visualize patterns gives advantages.  I never really understood the pattern recognition part of the game until I played speed chess.  It’s really fun.  I know it sounds lame, but it’s not I promise!  If you can find someone to play against in person who is on your same skill level I would highly recommend it.  When everything is moving at a faster pace the pieces look more alive.  You’re forced to stop over thinking and just react to the flow of the game.  Also, it’s really fun to hit the clock when it starts getting down to the wire 🙂

I would guess in the context of politics, history would be the patterns.  Repeating but varied and styled.  Politics the processing computer, history the human player.  I’ve seen this pattern before, and so has everyone else.


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  1. I think the republicans got lazy and started playing checkers instead…

  2. gets you thinking strategically, trying to anticipate, set traps and such. it’s fun no matter who you’re playing, too. someone better than you is good cause you learn, someone worse than you is good cause you get to look smart, and evenly matched… well, that’s the best of all.

    speed chess never appealed to me, though. a few times I tried playing 10-15 minute timed games on Yahoo and it just stressed me out. I bet it’d be much more fun in person.

    someday I’d like to be one of those crotchety old men with white beards playing at the park. it’d also be cool to lose and do the angry Russian thing and flip the board up and start waving my arms, cursing and so on. definitely on my life to-do list.

  3. that one Robert James Fischer has died in Iceland.

  4. I wrote a whole essay on this one.

    • kj on January 19, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    read this essay yesterday.  also thanks to NL for her piece from November.

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