Monday, July 16, 2007


When my husband was quite a bit younger, he competed in chess tournaments and was quite a good player. To this day, when he sees someone playing chess in a movie or T.V. program, he will scrutinize what is happening carefully and pronounce whether or not the moves are realistic. He also has nothing for disdain for the way in which "checkmate" is proclaimed in a completely dubious fashion in so many shows. At those times, he reminds me of my father, who can identify older cars' makes and years with a glance, and who similarly scoffed at various things related to cars in T.V. shows.

At some point in his teen years, my husband lost interest in taking part in tournaments but he's still a very good player. On occasion, he plays against a fairly good program on his computer. He even has a kid who is a student at his school who he played chess with in lessons a few times. Part of the problem for him in terms of finding partners is that few casual players are as good as he is. In fact, I can play chess in that I know how the game is played but it's just too much concentration for me to think as many moves ahead as a really good player is required to do. My husband, on the other hand, is excellent at thinking things through thoroughly and he possesses the sort of memory that helps him remember moves.

A very long time ago, when my husband and I were still buying each other Christmas gifts, I bought him a small marble chess set at Tokyu Hands. I bought the small one because of our limited space but he would have preferred a really good large one with heavy, tactilely-satisfying pieces. One of these days, we'll live some place where we can just set up a nice little table somewhere and he can leave a beautiful chess set all the time.

The set pictured above has been in the closet for quite some time but I decided I'd take it out and use it decoratively in the bookcase. I made the picture near it with a collection of stock photos, Photoshop, and my new printer. It's actually served as an inspiration for an art project that I hope to create and hang in the living room some time in the next few weeks in the big glaring empty space above the T.V.

I'm hoping to construct a layered bit of artwork from a huge piece of corrugated plastic we have, vector art, and a lot of careful measuring and painting. Yesterday, I drew the basic chess pieces based on my husband's favorite bitmapped representations from his chess-playing days. If all goes well, the big version will greatly resemble the picture above.


shari's husband said...

My particular pet peeve about the TV thing is that they'll have presented the player as being quite good, but soon thereafter his opponent makes his move, announces 'checkmate,' whereupon the player stares at the board in surprise. You'd have to be a really low-level player to not see that checkmate is coming in the next move; a good player would have seen it coming two or three moves ago, and would have resigned if there was no escape. I know they do it for dramatic purposes, but come on, you could at least ask someone who plays chess reasonably well.

I'd be curious to know if anyone out there recognizes the position on the board. Anyone with a reasonable familiarity with openings probably will; this was one of my favorites.

CMUwriter said...

On the subject of chess. I got into playing chess when I was a freshman in college, and for some reason it took our campus, at least our dorm building by storm. Everyone was playing chess – if they were good or bad – it didn't matter. I mean people were playing it more than video games at one point. It was my roommate and I who started it when we bought a crappy board at a Walmart store, and he told me he was going to teach me chess (we would also build WW 2 fighter aircraft models).

We even got fined for being too loud in our room during a chess match because because people were shouting while we were making moves. that is where Shari's husband's comment got me; most of us didn't know what we were doing more than two moves in advance (with the exception of my roommate Tom, he was freaking good and never lost) so it was new to us, and a lot of fun.

I still play it every once in a while, and I was really keen on studying the moves, and would do it while I worked at the library periodicals desk. But for some reason I don't have the mind for it. I taught it to my little brother, and he beat me in the game i was teaching him with. I suck as chess, but I love it.

BTW, how were you guys affected by the earthquake? I hope you're both ok.

Shari said...

cmuwriter: Thanks for your concern (and comment). It's very much appreciated.

We're fine, thankfully. I feel very sad though for the people who were killed and injured in the quake though. It must be a truly terrifying experience seeing one of your life-long fears come to fruition.

Roy said...

I'm the same way when watching people fake typing on a keyboard and also about world war 2 tanks and airplanes in movies. Some movies have the Germans using American tanks that didn't even exist until after the war. That's unacceptable if you ask me. Was this completely unrelated to the topic of chess? Sorry...

Shawn said...

[Ahem] *Some* of us are still waiting for the answer to the quiz! Which opening is it? I have a fairly poor memory when it comes to the names of openings, but I've seen enough to frustrate me when I can't recognize one that should be obvious ;)

shari's husband said...

Sorry, Shawn, I didn't put it up because it didn't occur to me that anyone would care. It's the Sicilian Defense, Najdorf variation, a very common opening for Black to use against 1 e4. This position isn't the only possible line of the Najdorf--this is 10 moves in, and what makes it a Najdorf is just the first 5 moves (1 e4 c5, 2 Nf3 d6, 3 d4 cxd4, 4 Nxd4 Nf6, 5 Nc3 a6)--but this is one of the main lines. I liked to play this one when I played in tournaments; it leads to a pretty interesting game.