So in an effort to diversify my hobbies a bit I've recently decided to spend some time getting to know Chess a bit better. While I have casually played Chess all of my life, the reality is that outside of knowing how the pieces move and the conditions under which a game is completed, I didn't know much else. While this might come as a shock since I was part of the Chess Club throughout high school, the harsh reality is that there were no clubs oriented towards my primary interest (any and all things computer related). Thankfully I was not the only person who joined Chess Club as a last resort. In that most of us had something in common.
So I've been playing Chess for the last week. I started off by creating an account at lichess.org, playing through the beginner and intermediate tutorials and then facing off against some actual human opponents. As I suspected would happen, I got my clock cleaned something fierce. So I'm back to playing locally against computer opponents. And yeah, even on easy difficulty, I'm still taking a beating.
So why is that? Well I've given it some thought. As a software developer my tendency is start off looking at the big picture and then narrow my focus to primarily hammer away at whatever facet of the larger problem I've decided to tackle during a particular day, week or month. As it turns out, while this mental discipline works pretty well for coding, it falls flat on its face when it comes to Chess. Once I stop looking at the big picture on the board and start to hone in on some small conflict, I lose as any reasonably skilled opponent can take advantage of that kind of blind spot.
That's because any decent Chess opponent works much like a magician does. While you are looking at their right hand, the actual "magic" of the thing is taking place in their left hand. Chess goes against a lot of my natural tendencies. But that's kind of what makes it fun. I have to force my brain to approach some situations in a different way. The reality is that as a proficient coder, I've been doing the same thing with my brain for almost two decades now. Taking up Chess is forcing me to hone some of the other tools in my mental toolbox.
Also while it's probably cliche to say it, Chess doesn't feel like just another game. It's been around for centuries now and is probably the most well respected game on the face of the planet. In addition I feel like playing Chess is productive in the sense that I'm challenging myself in some deeply satisfying manner.
So are you game? If so, feel free to create an account lichess.org as well and hit me up. While I'm still trying to get my shit together, my handle is jaylittle and I'm more than willing to consider friendly games against the handful of readers I've got. Just don't tell everybody that you kicked my ass, okay?