I’d let you watch, I would invite you, but the queens we use would not excite you.

Last night, I had my Xbox 360 up and running and was looking for something to play. I had just finished a single-player tournament on Texas Hold Em and didn’t feel like playing another round of Battlezone (which is another game I’ve been playing recently). I looked on my list of games, and noticed that I still had the demo of Chessmaster Live installed. On a whim, I decided to load it and give a single-player game a try. I hadn’t played chess in ages, and figured I would end up being wiped out by the CPU in relatively short time. To my surprise, I managed to checkmate the CPU in 27 moves.

I’m still trying to decide if that means I should start taking chess up again.

It’s funny, in a way. Back in the old days of IRC, before my real name became more or less common knowledge out there, one of the two common theories of what my nick meant was that it referred to the chess piece. (The other was that it had a religious meaning.) I thought it was amusing, really, especially considering how much I used to play chess in the past. Of course, even back then I didn’t play anymore, except for a brief stint when I had Chessmaster 5500 and I would play the occasional game online against silver. In a way, the reason I gave it up was rather silly, but to this day it still annoys me.

I was actually taught to play chess around fifth or sixth grade by my father. He had a nice chess board with pieces, and one evening he brought it out and showed me how to play. I took to it quickly; I was hardly a Kasparov or Fischer, but I enjoyed playing. It got to the point where when we would have our Saturday outings to Bennigan’s for lunch, we would take a small travel chess board with us and Dad and I would play. I’d also routinely play against Sean and Kourt.

So, what happened to completely kill my desire to play?

Like I said, some may consider it silly. Sean’s father (who at the time was the 8th grade honors science teacher at Strack) was the head of intramurals. He arranged for a chess tournament, and I took part in it. I won the first round against Sean. In the second round, though, I was playing against some younger student, and at one point I accidentally moved my king into check. He moved his piece (either queen or bishop) and “took” my king, saying he won. I told him no, it was an illegal move and I needed to take it back; you cannot move your king into check. He claimed that if a player moves his king into check the other player wins.

Unfortunately, Mr. McCormick was out that day and the teacher who was overseeing things did not know how to play chess. The teacher ended up siding with the other student and declared that I had lost. I was PISSED. I don’t mind losing, but I was incensed that this kid basically cheated (or was going by incorrect rules) and the teacher’s ignorance let him get away with it. I called Mr. McCormick later that evening to gripe and complain, but there was little he could do. The damage had been done, however. I had been screwed over, and at that point in my life I was not really able to handle such a thing well. Every time I saw a chess board after that I was reminded of how I had been cheated and had no desire to play.

It would be over ten years before I would play again.

That’s not to say I didn’t regret giving it up. I’d see chess puzzles in a newspaper or chess boards or PC games and wonder if I could get back into it. However, inertia and my knowledge that I don’t always have the most strategic or tactical mind kept me from actively pursuing it. However, I may end up playing it again on a more casual basis. It’s not as if there aren’t chess programs out there, and who knows… it could be that playing chess more might help me when playing other strategy games. (Sinc’s been pushing me to get Command & Conquer 3, and Jeff and Malinda have said before they’d like me to try Twilight Imperium.) At the very least, it’d be good mental exercise.

Either way, we’ll see.