Roughly a month ago I travelled to Portland to have a wisdom tooth extracted, and during my ensuing convalescence decided to check out the local chess scene. Here is what I’ve learned so far.
1) There’s a cafe that people sometimes play at. It’s called Coffee Time Cafe. Here’s their website (be warned, music plays upon loading). My guess is that the best times to try and find a game would be after five on Fridays and Saturdays, and possibly weekend afternoons. So far, I’ve meet three chess players there in three visits: the first was the archetypical linchpin of any chess cafe: middle-aged, somewhat scruffy, slightly avuncular and full of semi-reliable information on a wealth of topics. Another was a youthful owner of a store called the Portland Chess Shop (I think this is their website), and the third was a fairly strong (perhaps A player, or even expert) player who had recently lost his job. This last fellow leads me to wonder if America is due for a renaissance of good players as a result of the ongoing economic recession/depression, since unemployed people not only have more time to play chess but also incentive, for it could be (mildly) profitable to some via teaching, hustling, etc. Furthermore, the last time that America was a chess “super-power” was in the 30’s. Could the pendulum be swinging that way again? Well, OK, probably not, for if one were to follow that reasoning further it may well follow that Greece will be the next chess juggernaut, and, in any event, I'm clearly rambling.
2) There’s a local chess club. It is located more or less nowhere near anything except a mercifully regularly running bus (the number 12, along Barbur). It is run by an experienced and highly professional TD, Grisha Alpernas, and features monthly tournaments, quads, informal get-togethers and more. They also have an easily found and informative website.
3) I blunder a lot. Perhaps it’s the painkillers, but my attempts to conduct a chess game without randomly veering into various blindingly obvious tactical ditches have been, well, checkered (a game I should perhaps consider taking up). To illustrate, here are two games I lost that I shall present as a novel sort of puzzle, called:
FIND THE WORST MOVE
Your task in the following two positions is to find, within reason, the worst possible move on the board. By “within reason” I mean a move that isn’t obviously losing immediately in some ridiculously obvious/trivial/silly way. That said, I suppose it could be argued that the solutions are more or less exactly that, but hey, just humor me, OK?