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Saturday, January 7, 2012

I Miss the Chess Club

I had been a regular at my local chess club (meets in a bunch of different places, depending on which day of the week it is) for years and years. It was my first OTB experience with players who knew what they were doing. I had always been better at chess than my friends, but I was a fish in that arena.

When I first walked into the place (I had heard about them meeting on Thursdays from a friend), I saw a lot of clocks and vinyl chess mats and big, weighted pieces. I had brought a department store folding board and small, un-weighted plastic pieces in a butter container. I knew nothing of openings, middle games, endings, tournament mats, clocks, timed games, tactics – you get the idea. I wasn’t just green, I was light yellow.

Anyhow, I kept going back to the club, week after week, for a solid year (almost to the day) before I won my first game there. I had the right idea, but the execution needed some major work. I was an attacker, that was clear, and I didn’t want games to last more than twenty moves or so. Anything for a checkmate. You know, beginner stuff.

As I progressed, I got stronger and stronger and, a couple of years later, none of the players who regularly trounced me so badly before could take a single game off me. I was now the one to watch out for. Why? Because I was doing more than showing up for a few hours and playing five-minute chess. I was studying, I was playing in tournaments, I was taking boards to work and setting up positions on my lunch hour.

The club meets in many places, and I attended them all: the coffee shop on Thursdays, a Denny's on Fridays, the Senior Center on Tuesdays, a bookstore on Sunday mornings – I didn’t miss a beat. Now, however, and for several reasons, I rarely go, and I miss the hell out of it.

The Reasons:

Gas is expensive. I have since moved slightly out of the area and it takes a quarter-tank for the round trip no matter which night I attend. That adds up quick with today’s gas prices. I don’t usually gripe about the price of gas, but it’s a reality and it’s enough to keep me home if I don’t need to go out.

The Internet has made it possible to get a game any day, any hour, at any time control. That makes the process of eating dinner, getting ready, hopping in the car and driving somewhere seem like a whole lot of hassle for the same thing I could do in seconds at home. I hate the mindset, but I must admit it’s there. No, Internet chess is never nearly as satisfying as thumping down a triple-weighted rook and slapping the clock, but it’s a much easier alternative.

There’s a crazy, scary guy at the club that isn’t stable. Yes, I’m serious. This guy has no qualms about cornering someone for three hours or more and telling all about his jacked up childhood, about his drunk, drug-addicted mother and abusive father, about jobs he’s had (in excruciating detail – way beyond the norm), his military experience, his view on politics (you only have to listen for a few minutes to realize that this guy is extremely racist), etcetera. It goes on, and on, and on. I had always just had him pegged as extremely nerdy, but he goes beyond that into psychotic, I believe.

Lately, he’s my reason for not going. I had seen him at the club off and on for years, but he’d never managed to corner me. One Friday night after a rock concert, I motored into the Denny's because I was passing it anyhow and always have my tournament set with me. He and one other guy were there, and I played the other guy a few games. Once he’d had enough of dropping pieces to me, he took his leave, and this wacko started in.

I probably said twenty words in three hours; he just talks and talks and talks. Eventually, I packed up and said I had to go and he still talked for another twenty minutes. I really, really do not want to encounter this guy again, but he’s always at the club. He wasn’t just annoyingly talkative; the stuff he was saying scared me.

Anyhow, so those are the reasons I mostly stay home and play chess these days. I dearly miss the sights, sounds, and feel of pushing wood at the club, though; I may just have to make an appearance Thursday and show those patzers a little bit of what up. *giggle*

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