Sunday, 29 July 2007

Ban the chess simile!

I'm an easy-going kind of guy. It usually takes a lot to upset or annoy me. For instance, my 12 year old washing machine has just broken - a few weeks before I am due to move house. I managed to brush it off with a shrug and a laugh (it helps that my very nice mother-in-law has offered to wash my clothes).

There is, however, one thing which is guaranteed to get my goat and quickly have me foaming at the mouth like a lunatic: People using chess as a simile for totally inappropriate things.

Don't know what I mean? A few examples from a quick Google search should help (I'm not making these up).

* Marketing is like a game of chess
* An appellate brief is like a game of chess
* Writing is like a game of chess
* Beating hackers is like a game of chess
* Relationships are like a game of chess
* Federation Cup Tennis lineups are like a game of chess
* Contemporary Warfare is like a game of chess
* Fighting Cancer is like a game of chess
* The Soccer U-20 World Cup is like a game of chess
* Californian politics is like a game of chess
* 'Cold Reading' by psychics is like a game of chess
* Fencing is like a game of chess
* Search Engine Optimisation is like a game of chess

Argggggggh! None of those things are like a game of chess - and that's just a small sample of some of bizarre things that people compare to chess. Why do people who wouldn't know a rook from a bishop think they understand chess well enough to compare it to something else?

It seems that chess is usually used in this way to indicate something that is strategically complex and requires careful thought. Fair enough, but that doesn't make any of them actually like chess, does it?

This sort of lazy thinking drives me crazy, and I reserve special scorn for those who have some experience of chess and yet STILL use chess as a simile - you know who you are. I say it's time to take a stand - ban the chess simile now!

End of Rant. Normal service will be resumed in my next blog post!

Chess from a different perspective

I have many so many faults in my chess that's it's hard to know where to start to improve. I think that identifying a fault is often the easy part; correcting it can take a lot of effort and practice.

Fortunately, There is one area in which I think I have made some progress and it concerns what the Scottish GM Jonathan Rowson calls "Egoism" in his book "The Seven Deadly Chess Sins".

By egoism, Rowson means being so caught up with your own grandiose plans and ideas that you forget to consider what your opponent might be trying to do. He (or she) will have plans too and if you don't take steps to counter them you are likely to meet a sticky end!

I tend to do this myself and there are two things which have helped me counter it. Firstly, after every move my opponent makes I ask myself, "What is the devious blighter up to now?" I try to put myself in my opponent's shoes.

Secondly, I try to look at the board from the other side. Playing on a computer screen you can just flip the board around; playing OTB you can walk behind your opponent and have a look. It's surprising what a difference this simple act can make. A position can look very different when seen from your opponent's perspective. You may see ideas for both sides that were not obvious from your own side of the board.

I hope this tip can help others as it has helped me. That's one deadly sin down, just 6 more to go!

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Women-only chess events - Good or Bad?

The 2007 US Women's Chess Championship is starting tomorrow in Oklahoma and should provide some interesting chess games. However, I must admit to having mixed feelings about women-only events in chess.

Lots of sports have separate tournaments and competitions for women. Indeed, there are many contact sports where men and women would never compete with each other due to their physical nature e.g. American football, or rugby. Other sports are non-contact sports but still require a degree of physical strength which tends to give men an advantage that no woman, however talented, could overcome e.g. tennis or golf.

So where does that leave other sports that do not require physical strength? Sports like snooker, pool, poker, darts and chess?

There is no reason, in theory, why women should not be able to play these sports as well as men. So why should there be women-only events here as well?

Clearly, there are some short-term advantages in terms of publicity; but is this outweighed by the long-term disadvantage of settling for competition among women only, instead of playing - and beating - men?

I think Judit Polgar (pictured) has shown that in order for women to reach the top levels of chess, they should compete with men and not be sidetracked by the allure of big pay-days in better publicised women-only events.

Of course, that's easy for me to say. I'm not struggling to earn a living from chess; but isn't it ultimately the only way to succeed in a male dominated sport?

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Richie and Eddie play chess

Fans of the British TV series "Bottom" will enjoy the clip below. Warning - some profanity!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

My Chess 'Den' Dreams

Thanks to my financial prudence and legendary miserliness I will shortly be moving from my current cramped 2 bedroomed home to a considerably bigger 4 bedroomed house. As my wife and I don't have any kids, there should be plenty of room for both of us to use for whatever we want.

Up till now, when I've played chess at home, I've had to squeeze into my spare bedroom, a.k.a. the study, the gym, the junk room etc. In our new home, I should be able to use one of the bedrooms as a chess 'den'. I'll be able to have all my chess books in their own bookcase and my chess board and pieces on permanent display ready to be used.

I'll just have to persuade my wife that a chess den is a good idea. A while ago that might have taken some serious coaxing and pleading on my part, but since my wife recently developed an interest in chess, it shouldn't be a problem!

So where do YOU play chess?

Sunday, 8 July 2007


Chess fans who enjoy surfing the web (and if you are reading this, that's you) are truly spolit for choice when it comes to quality websites for the discerning player. Another terrific new site which has recently come to my attention is chessdom.

Despite having a name which sounds like a bizarre chess related fetish, this is truly an excellent site with lots of interesting content. News, interviews, player profiles, event coverage, photos, videos, annotated games and lots more.

A particularly nice feature is the live annotation of games from current events. I have just finished watching their coverage of Anand v Topalov in the final of the rapid tournament in Leon and it was very well done.

Definitely a website to grace any chess fan's 'bookmarks'.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

I love chess, but...

I love chess. "How much?", I hear you cry. A lot - honest. Most of my spare time is taken up with chess which makes what I am about to admit all the stranger.

I like to read my chess books (I've got about 50 so far, and plenty of space in my bookcase to fill with more) and spend lots of time contributing to websites like and the Chess Exchange. I'm now also teaching my wife to play chess and any impartial observer would surely attest to my fascination with the game. However, I have a dark secret that I must come clean about.

I love chess, but...

...I hardly ever actually play chess any more. No, really! I enjoy reading instructional chess books and writing blog entries and forum comments about chess, but I swear as I type this blog entry right now, I can't honestly remember the last game that I played. Was it a month ago? Perhaps. Even longer? Maybe.

Does anyone else have the same problem? What's wrong with me? Am I simply addicted to learning and have forgotten that the point is to actually play?

Have I become afraid of losing? Perhaps - a bit. I'm aware that when I used to play online at I would play a few times until I won a nice game and then would stop so I could end my playing session on a winning note.

But I don't think that's the whole answer. Can anyone suggest a way to cure my "Caissa Interruptus"?