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
- Powers of concentration are heightened, deepened, and improved
- Increased ability to visualize.
- Improved blood flow in the brain.
- Increased memory capacity.
- The ability to strategize, which is a key business skill, improves
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Laugh. Set the example at your chess games. Greet people with a
smile, and try to help everyone have a good time.
- 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
- 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).
- 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. 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.
- 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
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- If it is a pawn you are about to move, consider if you can keep it
protected from attack.
- If it is another piece, consider whether the enemy can drive it
- Be alert. Once you've reached a good strategic position in the game
do not relax. Be on the lookout for your opponents threats.
- 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
- Think about the endgame. You should remember that every time you
make a move it might affect your chances in the endgame.
- 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,