Follow by Email

Friday, June 24, 2011

What's your favorite chess set?

My first chess set was bought from the friend of a dead Master (no kidding) for $15. It had a fancy-ish but well-used green roll-up vinyl board, an ugly green bag and those yellow and black, really heavy pieces you sometimes see at the chess club. I loved it. I used it for years and it just kept going.

Eventually, I took each piece apart and re-seated the lead weights with clear RTV so they wouldn’t rattle anymore. A few thousand 5/0 games had taken their toll on the innards, especially the rooks. This both made them a tad heavier and much, much more solid sounding. If you were pick up one of my rooks, and set it down with authority, it sounded like a small gun had gone off. *BAM!* The things are really wicked.

Anyhow, I ended up moving on to more expensive, Staunton style plastic double-weighted sets (as opposed to the triple-weight of the first set) from House of Jocques, I believe. Anyhow, I got two identical sets in different colors so that I could have a bunch of sets, depending on my mood. I got a red/tan set and a black/white set, so I could bring white/red, black/red, tan/white, black/tan – well, you get the idea. It went over well, and folks liked the red pieces, especially. Well, *most* folks did, but I’ll save the one who didn’t for another entry.

Then I purchased a really nice wooden set – the kind where you can SEE the grains; I love that stuff. It’s my serious tournament set to this day, but is it my favorite set? I don’t believe so. I get a lot of compliments on it and all, but really, it’s hard to beat the weight and ruggedness of my first set.

So, my favorite set is still the yellow/black “Thumper” set, as I affectionately call it. The only drawback to the set is that it’s old and the pieces aren’t exactly new looking, and it only has one queen per color, whereas the rest of my sets came with four queens. But, they can be ordered cheaply enough and I’m considering doing that!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bobby Fischer: Leave him Alone.

So, I watched the Fischer documentary that HBO put out a couple of nights ago, and it got me thinking about how I’m tired of all the anti-Fischer zealots that seem to be everywhere. Even folks that aren’t in the chess world think of him as a raving lunatic, and that is in large part thanks to mass media, in my opinion. I’m not here to dispel any myths or to prove anything about the man and I’m not a psychologist. I wish only to offer another point of view into the Fischer saga that everyone seems to have an opinion about.

First off, Fischer lived with chess and chess only from a very young age, right on up into adulthood. The documentary mentioned this and even Fischer admitted that he might be a tad more well-rounded had he led a more normal life during childhood. Nobody can be expected to turn out “normal” with only chess as a companion during the formative years. That’s weird in and of itself. I’m not saying it’s what made Fischer “insane,” but I’m sure it didn’t help.

Fischer was off the charts with his I.Q., literally – at least that’s the way I read it somewhere. They told his mother that he was above 200 and had an exceptional memory. You know the whole, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” thing? Well, it’s pretty obvious that the large majority of us do not have a 200 I.Q. So, maybe we should keep our non-extreme-genius opinions to ourselves until we see the world the same way Fischer did.

He won the world championship for the USA in 1972 against Russia during the Cold War, a period in which such a win was very important. Later, the USA cast him out as a fugitive and jailed him because he played chess, the same game which put us on the map so many years ago. I might harbor a little disdain for the country, as well. He should be a hero in this community, no matter what his personal views are. Just saying.

He was Jewish and hated Jews. So what? I’ll bet if we dig around in each of our heads a little we’ll find quite a few weird things that would put us in the “weird” or even “insane” category. He didn’t like women either, and especially women chess players. Again, so what? The man surely has a right to his opinions, and if they don’t match the rest of ours or aren’t “politically correct,” it’s neither here nor there. Let’s appreciate him for his chess prowess and let his games live in infamy instead of attacking the oddball side of him all the time. Sports figures abuse drugs, rape women, kill dogs and trash hotel rooms on a regular basis, and yet the public at large is willing to let those inadequacies go as long as they keep scoring goals. That’s way more insane than admitting you like Fischer, who did nothing more than harbor hateful opinions. Get real, folks.

I could go on and on, and likely will, in future blog posts. The point is that the way in which the media portrayed Fischer, the way in which we as individuals or a whole chess community think we understand Fischer and the way Fischer actually was inside are likely all very, very different. Alekhine was dubbed a drunk and an anti-Semite, Morphy was said to have lost it at the end and Steinitz as well, and I personally have yet to meet a chess player (not someone who knows how to play chess, mind you, but a chess player) who seems completely well-adjusted and 100% sane.

We chess addicts are all a bit weird, and it’s completely believable that the better we are at the game, the more outside the normal box we live. Again, I ask, “So what?” There is more to life and chess than roasting a man for this or that, or judging him for off-the-board qualities that may or may not actually be possessed. Just as a sports fan can so easily overlook the egregious errors of his or her favorite jock, we too should be able to look past the person and appreciate them for the part we love: their chess games. That’s my two cents, and I’m sticking by it.