Saturday, 29 September 2007

Chess and Intelligence

One of the few social advantages of being a chess player is that people assume you must be intelligent. Chess players, of course, know this is simply not true. I've known plenty of players who could barely string two words together and were so dumb they probably needed an instruction manual to go to the toilet.

Me? Well, I'm a mathematics graduate, an accountant, and have an IQ of around 130. So I'm not exactly Einstein (pictured) but I can tie my own shoelaces. However, as a chess player I'm utterly mediocre. Chess requires a very specific set of knowledge and skills, so there is no guarantee that being smart will mean you are a budding Kasparov.

Of course, the opposite also applies. You don't have to be smart to play good chess. This is the big secret that the non-chess paying world doesn't know. You are all sworn to secrecy - I mean it! If word ever gets out it will be the end of one of the few perks we chess players have. So if someone asks you if chess players are smart, just answer in the affirmative and misquote Descartes, "I think, therefore I play chess".

Sunday, 23 September 2007

The Silver Knights

The traditional and outdated image of chess players to many of our non chess-playing friends is one of old gentlemen sitting stooped over, facing one another over a chess board in a crowded and smoky room. This caricature has never really been true, but is even less likely to represent reality in the modern chess era where you are more likely to meet an 8 year old playing chess than an eighty year old.

However, the despite the cult of youth in today's chess culture, with top players being regarded as past it by the time they are in their 30's (let alone in their 70's like the great Viktor Korchnoi, pictured), the grass roots of the game are filled with players of all ages. The nature of chess as a mental game renders age immaterial as two minds battle their ideas across the chessboard.

I recently came across a link to organisation called The Silver Knights (hat tip to Robert Pearson). The Silver Knights are a charitable organisation dedicated to helping prevent Alzheimer's Disease by teaching and playing chess with senior citizens. Research has shown that mental activities like solving crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument or playing games like chess or bridge has a measurable effect on reducing the incidence of Alzheimer's.

I think the Silver Knight's organisation is well worth supporting and if anyone living in the US would like to offer their help, I'm sure it would be much appreciated and rewarding. For those not in the US, I'm sure a purchase of their merchandise or a donation would be welcomed.

I'm looking forward to playing chess as I grow older, and hope that it helps keep my mind active. Use it or lose it! Sadly, my attempts at playing a musical instrument are even worse than my chess!

SonofPearl, Reloaded!

Hi everybody I'm back!

You know how it is when a musical artist splits up from their partner and their next release gets called their ‘divorce album’ because they can’t stop moaning on and on about it (a.k.a. the Phil Collins syndrome)? Well, this post is my ‘moving house’ post! There won’t be much chess content (no Zugwang or Zwischenzug), but lots of opportunity for Schadenfreude (no that’s not a chess term!)

Well, my wife and I moved house on the 10 August and our new house (pictured) is really nice. I haven’t yet got around to making one of the bedrooms into a ‘chess den’, but I hope to do that eventually after we’ve finished ‘settling in’ (btw – why, when you’ve moved house, does everyone ask if you’ve ‘settled in’ ok? What does it mean? How will I know when I’ve finished settling in? I lived in my last house for 7 years and I never did manage to remember which light switch was for the hallway and which was for the landing).

Anyway, moving house is regularly cited as one of the most stressful things that you can do, and they’re not wrong. The moving day itself went quite smoothly, but we had to pay off a £40 debt that the previous owner (hereafter known as ‘The Swine’) had run up on a meter, in order to get the electricity to work. It turned out that the £40 debt was just the tip of iceberg as The Swine was about to have the house repossessed! Arggghh! I live in dread that bailiffs will knock on my door in the near future and I will have to politely explain to them (as they flex their muscles menacingly) that I am not The Swine and persuade them not to take all my possessions away!

To add insult to injury, The Swine hadn’t cancelled his telephone service so I had to make endless mobile phone calls to his and my telephone service providers just to get my own phone line – it took 3 weeks! All the while I continued getting phone calls from his creditors. Never mind, once I had my own phone line, I ordered broadband again (I couldn’t just transfer my old service for some bizarre reason – don’t ask!) and now I’m back online at last – hooray!

During the month I spent without the internet I discovered the simpler pleasures in life like reading, long walks, the sound of birdsong … oh, who am I kidding? If it hadn’t been for chess I would have gone completely crazy!

It's good to be back and I should be able to blog again more regularly from now on.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Normal service will be resumed...eventually

Apologies for my prolonged absence. I moved house on 10 August but haven't yet managed to get an internet connection at my new address. It took 3 weeks just to get a phone line, for crying out loud! Argggh!

Anyhow, I have been promised an internet connection by the 14th September, so I hope to start blogging again regularly after that.

Thanks for your patience - I'll be back asap.