Saturday, May 17, 2014

May 17, 2014

I've recently taken to chess again after a long hiatus. Online chess has come a long way in the last 15 years (which was when I last checked things out); I signed up at, and it's been great fun all the way. If you want to keep up with what I've been doing there, simply follow the buzz there about the mysterious stranger from India who's been making waves and giving the highly-rated old-timers a run for their money (just kidding, I'm the guy with the puppy avatar who's languishing with a tactical rating in the 1290s after briefly touching 1344).

This post is not about the cerebral aspects of the game, the strategy, the tactics, and so on, but about the emotional aspects. Consider this Daily Puzzle entry from yesterday:

It's white's turn to move, and a cursory look at the board immediately shows the danger: the white king is all alone on the right side, seemingly at the mercy of a phalanx of attackers led by the black queen. Also, the black knight is a move away from forking the white queen. All the white pieces look helpless, stuck on the wrong side of the board (with the exception of the rook on a3, who looks like he may be able to charge to the king's rescue and die heroically on the king's lap--ignoring for the moment what an elephant lying on a person's lap would mean to said person's state of health--in the process, gasping out an "Alas, I have but one life to give to my emperor"). I used the word "seemingly" upstream because, as I mentioned earlier, it's white's turn to move, which means appearances are deceptive, and there is some avenue of escape (maybe even victory?) open to white. Is it the bishop on e2 who can produce the check, ineffectual though it may be? Can the white queen somehow find the time to rush forward and cause a back-rank mate? Should the king charge forward boldly to g2 and meet the attack head-on? Would such a charge enable the other white rook to find some action on the h-file? One can cut the tension with a knife. Or considering the context, maybe I should say 'saber'.

Cerebral the game may be, but take away the emotions and the drama, and you might as well sit with paper and pencil and solve partial differential equations.