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Why Do You/We Play Chess?.- The Big Question.

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U.S.A. GM William Lombardy (1937, -)


Most of us arrived to Chess because our fathers,mothers, or other relatives -even a friend- taught us the moves of the pieces.  I suppose we were attracted by the shape of the pieces and their arcane movement in search of mate. Many would give up soon.Others woud play ocassionally, perhaps unable to understand the essence of the game, unable to devote time to study because they found other things to do/other hobbies, etc. But what happened to the portion who decided to devote their lives to the royal game?. Undoubtedly, some of them will have managed even to be professional players. Others remained as amateurs playing in OTB events when they were able to. A  part of us, began to play CC.

Some people tend to look for explanations (scientifical, philosophical,psychological,…) questioning what they do. This is not bad (though other people flatly reject this approach to life and avoid any type of self-questioning: both sides are right ,but none of them should try to impose their ideas on the other side. I respect those who never ask for motivations, and so on. But I belong to the group of those who need answers to self-imposed questions).

So, from time time I ponder about that question.

There would be many answers and as many nuances in the answer as chessplayers. Let’s try some possibilities:

– I play because I enjoy myself doing it.

– I play for the intellectual challenge Chess is. Moreover Chess is not a game of chance so everything depends on you.

-I play because of my sporting spririt: you can win in a game with no luck (again) involved.

– I play because I consider Chess as an art in the same way that others paint or compose music.

-I play because I am a fighter and Chess is the perfect game to fight.

-I play because the fight is exciting, you can play in tournaments with professionals even if you are an amateur and you may try to get a title.

-I play because Chess is excellent to try to achieve perfection (what sort of it it is up to oneself)

-I play because Chess has become a sort of philosophy of life (in the same way other people practice yoga,for instance).

-I play because I see Chess as a sort of mystic game and it attracts me a lot.

-I play Chess because I love its richness: all those tactical motiffs, the strategical depth, wonderful sacrifices, artistical endgames, the lives of all the leading chessplayers and World Champions, the history of the game, and so on.

-I play Chess because I was taught the moves, liked it, devoted my life to it and I want to try to win every opponent I meet to show my superiority. Chess is a game of war ,I am a fighter and the challenge to beat my opponents is wonderful. (O.K.: you can also lose…).

-I play Chess because ___________________________________________________________________________

(you can add your own ideas).


Sometimes I reach a point where I prefer not to reach any answer. I myself play Chess because of some of the possibilities mentioned above and sometimes I cannot understand why they really explain it, falling in a sort of self-contradiction.

Sometimes I think when you win you do not learn anything (because many people believe you can only learn from your defeats), and when I lose it is so painful that it only really shows your own stupidity: as Tartakower said, “errors are always there for the player to make them”. In the same train of thought, “good moves ,instead of the stupid mistake I may make, are also there for me to play”…

We all play Chess no matter our degree of dexterity. In my humble opinion, the key is playing, playing and playing (OTB or CC, it doesn’t matter). Some of my CC colleagues -with the IM title- have told me the secret to improve is what I have just said: you have to play and play. You may say you do it but do not improve. Well,  “playing and playing” does not mean what it seems. It implies to prepare your games carefully, selecting the openings you are going to play and studying them, even broading your repertoire and, why not, test new openings accepting the risks. It also means to find the mistakes in your own games -at least, knowing why you lose and trying to avoid the same mistake in future games-. It also means studying GM games, trying to understand the characteristics in your approach to Chess, and so on.

You can take a GM game , play the opening and then try to understand the following positions before playing the moves.You play the first ten or so moves, stop to grasp the position in front of you, try to find the move you would play and then check it against the move actually played, trying to understand it.  When you do not inderstand something, try to find a tactical justification and continue with the game.It is a rewarding task.

Some years ago I was writing an article for a Chess bulletin. In it,  I was analysing Karpov´s approach to Chess. When I was playing through one of the games I had to stop because I was unable to understand some ideas. Clearly there had to be a tactical explanation and  I  tried to find it. This may seem a stupid detail, but I remember it was very important  to me because I had managed to understand what was going on in the game by myself (the game had no annotations, I had no computer/program and was  working like in the good old days: with the game and the board…  (The game in question was Karpov-Quinteros, Linares 1981 .The opening moves were: 1. d4  Nf6 2. c4  c5 3. Nf3  cd4  4. Nd4:   e6  5. g3  d5  6. Bg2  e5  7. Nf3  d4  8. 0-0  Nc6  9. e3  Bg4  10. h3  Bf3:  11. Bf3:  Be7   (Here , at first, I did not understand why Black refrained from playing 11… e4 /to nail down the position with 12… d3/)

The following game is a magnificent struggle:

W.: L. Polugaevsky (1)

B.: L. Psajis (0)

Moscow 1983

1. d4  Nf6  2. c4  e6  3. Nc3  Bb4  4. Qc2  0-0  5. a3  Bc3:  6. Qc3:  b6  7. Nf3  Bb7  8. e3  d6  9. b3  d6  10. Bb2  Ne4  11. Qc2  f5  12. Bd3  Nbd7  13. 0-0  Rf6  14. c5  bc5  15. dc5  Nec5:  16. Bf6:  Qf6: (Threatening …Nd3 and …Ba6)  17. Be2  Be4  18. Qd1  Bf3:  19. Bf3:  Rb8  20. Bc6!  Qb2  21. Bd7:  Nd7:  22. b4!  ab4  23. Qa4  Nc5  24. Qc6  ba3  25. Qc7:  Rd8  26. Qd6:  Nb3  27. Qe6:  Kh8  28. Rab1  Qb1:  29. Rb1:  a2  30. Qb3: a1Q  31. g4!  Qe5  32. f4  Qd6  33. gf5  Rf8  34. Rd1  Qc5  35. Rd5  Qc1  36. K2  h6  37. Qd3  Qb2  38. Kg3  Qc1  39. e4  Kh7  40. e5  Qg1  41. Kh3  and Black resigned.

W.: V. Korchnoi  (0)

B.: W. Lombardy (1)

Lone Pine (USA), 1979

1. c4  f5  2. d4  Nf6  3. Nc3  g6  4. f3  d6  5. e4  Bg7  6. e5  de5  7. de5  Qd1:  8. Kd1:  Nh5  9. f4  Be6  10. Nf3  Nc6  11. Kc2  0-0-0  12. Be3  h6  13. a3  g5  14. g3  Bf7  15. Be2  e6  16. b4  gf4  17. gf4  Bf8  18. Rhg1  Be7  19. c5  a6  20. Bc4  Rhg8  21. Ne2  Rg4  22. h3  Rg1:  23. Rg1:  Rg8   24. Rg8:  Bg8:  25 . Nfd4  Nd8  26. c6  b5  27. Bd3  Bf7  28. Nf5:  ef5  29. Bf5:  Ne6  30. Bg4  Ng7  31. f5  h5  32. fe6  Bg6  33. Kc3  hg4  34. hg4  Ne6  35. Nf4  Nf4:  36. Bf4  Be4  37.  Kd4  Bc6:  38. e6  Bf3  39. g5  Bg4  40. Kd5  Bh5  41. Ke4  Bg6  42. Kd5  Kb7  43. Ke5  c5 44. bc5  Kc6  45. Bd2  Bh7  46. Be3  Bd8  47. Bd2  Bg6  48. Be3  a5  49. Bd2  Kc5:  50. e7  Be7:  51. Ke6  Bd6  52. Ba5:  Kc6  53. Kf6  Be4   54. g6  Ba3:  55. Kf7  b4 / and Korchnoi resigned.



Written by QChess

August 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

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