Hubbard’s Hobblog (That’s Hobby Blog): Chess


Chess has been around for centuries. Most homes have at least one chest set hiding in a closet, to be broken out for a quiet evening or rainy day–at least, before we had so many electronic ways to distract us. While the casual chess game has been largely replaced by video games and the internet, chess as a hobby has not disappeared. There are countless worldwide chess tournaments between human players and/or AI, and no one can deny the amusement of drunken life-sized chess games, even when Rock Band is in the other room.

My earliest memory of chess was when my best friend taught me how to play. Growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, I was born just late enough for video games to replace the need for household card or board games, and thus had never learned to play chess. I must have been ten or so when I learned. And I sucked.

Fast forward a few years, when I was a sophomore in high school shop class and decided to construct my own personal chess board. It didn’t have folding hinges or any of that fancy stuff–it was a checkered board with some killer varnish, and that was enough. I began to play games with my dad–the only person I could beat, and one of the rare father-son activities I didn’t feel forced into participating in (those usually involved baseballs or golf clubs).

I remember spending time with my friend (the same one as above) at his grandparent’s cabin one summer, playing Warcraft III on some laptops we had handy. Most parents would be heartbroken to see their kids playing video games while on a vacation at the lake in a beachside cabin, but my friend’s father defended the activity. He said, “What’s happening here is really a very advanced game of chess,” which is a good way of describing any real-time strategy game, Warcraft included (before it turned into a clicky grindfest, but that’s another post). My friend’s aunt pursed her lips and said, “Well, why can’t they just play actual chess?”

You win, lady. I’m getting back into chess. “Actual” chess.

I haven’t played many games in probably a decade. Only recently have I tried a couple of matches with my girlfriend (at her cabin at the lake, no less!) and recalled how much I enjoyed it, despite being awful. She creamed me in both games. But, win or lose, there’s a zen to the game. Playing chess soothes my nerves, clears my head, and gets my brain in gear, whether for writing or for battle. Chess is a true gentleman’s game. And I want to be a halfway decent player for once in my life.

So I ordered a chessboard on Amazon (I have no idea where my homemade board is now) and, in the absence of my girlfriend (spending time at the lake WITHOUT ME), I’ve played a couple games against myself. I’ve discovered that I’m awful, and also not bad. So far I’m 1-1 (one win for black, one win for white). There will need to be a tie-breaker soon.

I’ve also taken to signing up for a free online chess course to perhaps improve my game, or at least relearn the basics. And I’ve even played a few games against my computer, who is a clever bastard. I’ve won one game against the dumbest AI setting. Bumping it any higher and I cannot win.

I’ll learn. And record my progress here, in HUBBARD’S HOBBLOG. It’s time to pick up some new hobbies. This is just the start.

There has to be something out there I’m not terrible at.

– H.

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