My Journey Back Into Chess

 A long time ago, my grandfather said something to me that has stuck in my mind to this day.  He said, "Don't force it, son... "  I can't recall exactly to what he was referring... I believe we were assembling a model car. But the idea is something that even after almost twenty years has never left me.

 I played my first game of chess at the age of 9. (1989)  It was part of rehabilitation I was undergoing for brain injury I suffered in a sports accident.  I was having trouble with my memory recall, concentration, and other aspects of mental acuity.  My step-father at the time told my physical therapist how he used to play chess as a child, and asked if perhaps that would help me.  As you can easily assume, the answer was yes.

 Over the next 8 months or so, I played a lot of chess.  {I also learned to play guitar during this time frame, but that's another blog :) } After the first few months, I noticed I was recalling moves from prior games, whereas I wasn't able to do this initially.  Then I noticed, I was looking 4 or 5 moves ahead for a tactical manuever.  Before I knew it... I was really beginning to feel sharp again. 

 My mother divorced my step-father in late 1991.  My mother, my younger brother and sister, and I all moved into an apartment on the other side of town.  Suddenly, I had no one to play chess with.  My sister and mother abhored chess to no end calling it "boring" and "a waste of time"  My mother was a wonderful person and parent, but she is no scholar.  My younger brother liked to play, but he was only interested in playing for recreation.  I wanted to get better, and better, and better... but I had no opponent.  I didn't play again for 9 years.

 In 2000 I moved into an apartment with a friend I had made a few months earlier.  Living in the same apartment, we discovered that each other knew how to play chess.  We played constantly.  Hours upon hours of each day were spent playing.  We even had a giant poster board on the wall with tally marks indicating wins, losses, and draws for each of our games.  People would come over and party with our other room mate who moved in later... they would be drinking and partying, but we would be right in the middle of the room... playing chess.

 Around 2002 my friend enlisted in the army and moved away.  I spent a lot of time hanging out in a cool little rickety coffee shop in the artsy part of downtown playing guitar, drinking espresso, and playing chess.  I learned a lot about chess there.  I even managed to win a game against a master from Texas A&M who was in town for a tournament at the local chess club.

 For no reason what-so-ever, in 2003 I had a complete and sudden nervous collapse.  I couldn't focus.  I was deeply depressed.  I withdrew from my family and friends.  I moved from Chattanooga, TN to Manhattan, NY with barely enough money to get a bus ticket.  I stayed there, poor and depressed until one day just as suddenly as it has enveloped me... the nervousness left.  I literally just woke up and felt...  better. 

 I moved home with my mother and eventually met a girl named Megan in 2004.  We got married and she has been the best thing to ever happen to me.  A couple of months ago it hit me like a lighting bolt to the head.  I miss chess!!!  So I have been at it with a tenacity and a verocity with which I'm not sure I even understand.  My wife comments that underneath the tension on my face when I'm concentrating on a position (making sure not to "force it") she can see me glowing.  I'm sure it's true, b/c I really do love the game.  I know that now more than I ever understood when I was younger.

 Now, here I am.  Looking for guidance from my peers.  Longing to improve my game.  I spend all day at work thinking about analyzing positions, looking for a better move in my last game.  I feel I've hit a glass ceiling.  I'm not sure I know what to do to really move forward.  If your reading this, and have any suggestions on a study plan, or learning concept... please... let me know.  I will be very grateful!



  • 5 years ago


    Thanks for your story Remludar.  I'm sure chess is great for rehabilitation.  However, some stress comes with chess so the advice to not force it -- is very apt.  It will not only help you win games but will keep stress levels at bay  -- hopefully.  Good players are inevitably very competitive and don't like losing though.  So there will always be stress if you are keen.  I often think chess should be compulsory for people in administrative positions.  I can't believe they'd make the mistakes they do make if only they could think like a chess player.  What sort of guitar do you play.  I used to play classical.

  • 10 years ago






  • 10 years ago


    You can try to teach your wife to play chess, or if she knows, play over some games with some opening either one of you want to learn.  I've always recommended looking at short games and traps, both as White and as Black (you need to know the mating patterns or what led to a winning position).  I would experiment with every type of opening, from 1.a3 and 1.b3 to 1.g3 and 1.g4, and 1.h3, etc.  Every possible move for White.  Now repeat for Black every possible reply.  Write down every game you play, for fun or serious game.  I've written down every game I've played since 1969, and have about 20,000 games that I've added in a database.  If you have a chance, show your game to someone stronger and let them analyse it.  If you have a chess computer, use that to play or analyze.  Make it fun.  We're not pros.  Play on line if you can and experiment with your openings.  You could analyze positions, but it may be just as good to look up your opening moves in any good opening book or online.  Mark the move that is no longer in the book or database.  That's your new move.  Just study that position and ask yourself why this is a new move.  Most likely, it is a weak move, but sometimes it can be a theoretical novelty.  Try to remember your games.  You are not testing your memory, you are testing your logic.  You can memorize the alphabet, but if I give you randon letters, you may not remember it because you don't recognize a pattern.  But if I tell you to give me the letters in the alphabet backwards, from z to a, you can do it without ever having to memorize it.  You just know the pattern.  Same with chess.  Play a game over until you forget the move or moves.  Then look at the move and ask youself why it moved there.  If it makes sense, then the next time you can remember it.  That's why all masters can remember their game after playing it.  All the moves made sense and fits a pattern.  Don't force it, son.

  • 10 years ago


    Great story Remludar! I think there are many people actually who experience similar stories to yours.

    As for what to do going forward, there are three things:

    #1 Play - keep playing games. Thoughtful games.

    #2 Study - read a few GOOD books on strategy and tactics. also post your games online and let others comment on them!

    #3 Have fun - keep it enjoyable and realize that chess is a great part of life, but you shouldn't let your chess performance dictate your happiness :)

    Thanks again for sharing! 

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