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For those who love chess.

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See below for How to Be a Casual Chess Player, and Improving Your Chess Game.

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Former high school chess champ in the monkey-leagues

Quick Chess Overview

Chess is a classic two person board game. It is played with specially designed pieces on a square board made up of 64 alternating light and dark squares arranged in eight rows and columns.

First appearing around A.D. 600, the game steadily evolved into the modern game known today. The earliest methods of production involved carving the board and pieces out of wood or stone. Today, a variety of common modern manufacturing methods such as injection molding and lithographic printing are employed to mass produce thousands of games.

The objective of the modern chess game is to force the opponent's most important piece, the king, into checkmate. This is a position in which the king cannot be moved to avoid capture. The player with the white pieces begins the game by moving a piece to another square following the rules that govern piece movement. The players alternate moves until one player is either checkmated, resigns, or there is a draw. Thousands of books have been published relating to the strategies during the three key stages of chess, including the opening, the middle game, and the end game.


How to Be a Casual Chess Player

Chess is a wonderful game with many benefits. Unfortunately, the game of chess often becomes a quagmire of competition. People who could occasionally play a friendly, mentally enriching game of chess decide chess requires too much training and just don't play it.

Let's quickly review some chess facts:

Some chess benefits:

  • The parts of the brain used in abstract thinking actually grow in size.
  • Powers of concentration are heightened, deepened, and improved multiple ways.
  • Increased ability to visualize.
  • Improved blood flow in the brain.
  • Increased memory capacity.
  • The ability to strategize, which is a key business skill, improves dramatically.
  • It's fun!

Given all of these benefits, why doesn't everyone play chess? The benefits indicate that widespread chess play could end the stupidity epidemic. Even if ending the stupidity epidemic is too big a reach, what about the benefits to the individuals? The problem is people who try chess typically give up because they see winning as the benefit.  The reality is the playing is where the benefits are. But to win consistently, you either have to play chess with people who aren't very good at it or you have to train to be a chess champion.

How to be a chess champion:

  • Spend several thousand hours playing chess.
  • Spend several thousand hours more, studying chess theory, strategies, and games of chess masters

For most of us, training to be a chess champion just is not practical. So how can we get the benefits of playing? Here's a simple set of steps you can follow.

  1. Change your attitude about chess. Most golfers learned long ago that they stink at golf. Yet, they get out and play. Similarly, people enjoy swimming, karate, and other sports they just are not very good at. Most Americans cannot pass a test of Standard Written English, yet look at how many Americans use the language every day.

    Or consider voting. When Obama ran for pseudo-election, the nation was reeling from a horrendous national debt. Obama, as senator, voted only for criminal protection laws or for more debt (he never voted on anything else, and always voted for any spending bill). He had an F rating from the National Taxpayers Union, which monitors how tax dollars are spent. And yet, look at the outcome of the 2008 pseudo-election (it's a pseudo-election, because ballot access is controlled).
  2. Create a chess club. Talk to friends about getting together for chess. Explain that the goal isn't to become chess champs, but to, as golfers do, just enjoy the game together. Make a list of rules, and include at the top "No criticizing other people for playing poorly." If you run out of potential chess play partners, contact your local library. And the library, in fact, is a great place to meet to play chess. Decide on a time and meet at that time consistently. For example, the third Saturday morning of every month.
  3. Take chess lessons. The people who play in your club might get discouraged, if they play the same old opening moves and the same old sequences lead to the same people winning each time. Buy a book on chess and/or take chess lessons so that you can teach people how to improve their game. But do this very casually. Remember, you already told people this is not about becoming a chess champ.
  4. Laugh. Set the example at your chess games. Greet people with a smile, and try to help everyone have a good time.
  5. Leave food out. Contrary to popular opinion, food complicates social situations. You will get people who lick their fingers and then handle the chess pieces. This is unsanitary, and the sheer grossness will turn people off.
  6. Enforce the rules. If a person is impolite, talk with him/her about his/her behavior. Ask the person to commit to not doing that again. If the person breaks that promise, ask him/her not to come back. Some behaviors are so rude that you should just ask the person not to come back rather than discuss anything; for example, someone who picks his nose during a game. Or someone who is aggressively disrespectful to other people (such a person has issues and will not change just because you politely ask).
  7. Keep it clean. Between chess meetings, clean the chess pieces. This isn't a "Oh, germs could kill me I am so scared" thing. It's a matter of respecting the health of all involved. If you have plastic chess pieces, test one before cleaning. Glass or ceramic pieces can be cleaned with vinegar, no problem. Don't use Lysol (it's flammable!) or other toxic cleaners. These will leave residue that can make people sick.


Improving your Chess Strategy

Chess is a game about strategy and tactics above all. Each player commands an army of 16 chess pieces. In the opening, the players bring up their forces as they prepare for battle. Players maneuver for strategic positions and carry out attacks and counterattacks in the middle game. During the endgame is when, with fewer pawns and pieces left on the board, it's finally safe for kings to come out and join the combat.

Here are some ways to improve your chess strategy.

  1. 1. Plan. Your chess pieces need to work in harmony as a team with you as a coach. You need to work all your pieces together so that their strengths support one another. Your opponent will have an easy time defending themselves if your strategy appears to be haphazard.
  2. Know what each piece is worth. Consider the value of your pieces when thinking about giving up pieces for some of your opponents. The player who has the most pieces of great value usually has a significant advantage.
  3. Consider your opponents move. Every time your opponent moves stop to consider what might be their strategy. Ask yourself why that move was chosen. Are one of your pieces in danger?
  4. Your pieces should be ready for action and then they will be able to quickly control the course of the game. You need to be able to get your pieces into key strategic positions as quickly as possible.
  5. Keep your king safe at all times. The object of this game is to capture the opponent's king. If you forget this, you have lost.
  6. Make the best possible move by asking yourself a few questions. Will I improve my position by making this move? Will this move put my pieces in danger?
  7. If it is a pawn you are about to move, consider if you can keep it protected from attack.
  8. If it is another piece, consider whether the enemy can drive it away.
  9. Be alert. Once you've reached a good strategic position in the game do not relax. Be on the lookout for your opponents threats.
  10. Know when to trade pieces. The best time to trade pieces is when you can capture pieces that are worth more than the one you will be giving up.
  11. Think about the endgame. You should remember that every time you make a move it might affect your chances in the endgame.
  12. Control the center. The player who controls the four squares that are in the middle of the board will have a better game, in many cases, the victory.

Make a play for these chess posters:

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