I’m not good at chess by any means. In fact, I’m ranked top 1% at several other games that I play while I’m only ranked around top 5% in chess. I’ve quit chess several times. I’ve sworn to never play the game again one too many times I care to admit. However, if you ask me what my favorite game is, I’ll answer “Chess” without missing a beat. If you force me to only play one game for the rest of my life, again, I’ll choose chess.
My earliest memory of chess was when I play chess with a distant family member of mine when I was 6 (?). He gave me a chess book which I don’t even remember if I finished reading it or not. Occasionally I play chess with rickshaw drivers around my neighborhood. However, I didn’t pick it up seriously until when I was in high school, where I became completely hooked with the game. My obsession with the game grew to the point that my criteria for where I continue my study is if the university has a reputable chess club or not.
I’m a believer that we don’t simply choose our hobbies. Our hobbies choose us. One can’t choose to obsess over something. We simply do.
There’s something mesmerizing about chess. Almost a magical aura. This is a game that has been around for more than a millennium and will be around for millennia to come. It takes 5 minutes to learn the rules but a lifetime to master. There’s no “patch” by the game developer to shake things up to keep the game interesting, but many people have played it for more than 50 years. The game looks so simple, yet cruelly hard. Even today, top chess engines on powerful computers are still beating each other.
I view the likes of Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura as demigods. I was not around when Fischer and Kasparov hit their peaks, but I’m grateful I get to witness Carlsen play chess.
However, on the flip side, chess is the game I hate the most. Chess is an inherently competitive game. Yes, you’ll feel great when you manage to execute a beautiful queen sacrifice or a Smothered mate or flag your opponent 😛 , but it comes with the price that you’ll feel like shit when you lose. It’s a one on one game with very little luck involved. Unlike multiplayer games, if you lose, there’s no teammate to blame. Unlike gambling, there’s no misfortune to point at. Chess is unforgiving. There’s nowhere to hide. The better player almost always wins. When you lose, there’s this feeling that you’re less intelligent than your opponent (of course this is not the case, intelligence is domain dependent). I can’t bear myself to play competitive chess anymore. When I inevitably lose, the feelings that come with it is just not worth it.
Do I love chess? Absolutely. It’s the game of my life. Sadly, I’m too weak and too slow.