The Passion of Chess

This piece is entitled “The Passion of Chess” rather than “The Passion for Chess”, the reason for which I hope will become clear as you read this.  Why do we play chess?  Why do we study it?  Indeed, what is it about this game that devours some people whole, driving them to madness? 

 Thoreau wrote that he would not talk about himself so much if there were anyone else whom he knew as well, and similarly I can only answer these questions for myself.  If they resonate also in you, then we are both fortunate. 

Like many, I first learned the movements of the pieces early in life, but growing up in small town Iowa I had no one to play with, and the game never took root with me until four years ago.  That is when I enrolled my younger daughter in a chess class and my education began.  I sat in the back of the room, observing and listening, and my personal curse was catalyzed.  I tend to become intensely interested in whatever I am exposed to.  After inconspicuously absorbing several lessons, I began to play silently on my PDA as I waited for the class to end. 

After some weeks, this was not enough for me and I hovered about the boards at the adjacent chess club, watching the regulars play their skittles and blitz, and browsing the large collection of chess books.  I purchased some and studied at home, eventually mustering the courage to test myself against others in the club.  I lost 21 games in a row before having my first victory over a young beginner.  I continued to study and play, and eventually I began to win more games.  Each such victory fed the beast within.  Even when I lost, I was satisfied if I made the victor work for his win, or if I learned some previously unknown principle or tactic.

Today chess is part of my daily life.  I study or play nearly every day.  I am never satiated, only empassioned, whether from a loss, a win, or a scrap of knowledge.   Chess seems a self-organizing entity to me, an intellectual black hole, animated with gravitational power to engulf anyone who comes near.

The game encompasses seemingly limitless paths to pursue. The personalities of the game attract the psychologist, its development the historian, and its form the mathematician.  The opening is a riddle for the scientist, the middle game a canvas for the artist, and the endgame an equation for the engineer. 

Personalities in chess abound, and strange behavior is not uncommon.  Perhaps the best known example is Bobby Fischer.  Paul Morphy is not the only ‘pride and sorrow’ of chess.  And why are so many child prodigies to be found in this game, but not others?  Can the psychologist illuminate? 

Its long global history serves chess well as an object of study.  GM Daniel King wrote that, “It is a curious fact that great advances in the development of chess theory have often taken place in cities and countries where there has been a general flowering in culture or advancement in learning.”  There is much to attract the historian.

Form and structure preside over the 64 squares of this universe.  Mathematicians, to whom no topic is immune, have created an entire literature of the game, and the solitary scholar can spend countless hours exploring the vast abyss of the game.

The student may become devoted to learning the intricacies of opening theory.  Why do chess masters prefer one move over another in this or that opening?  What is the reason behind each move?  What are the refutations to moves outside “the book”?  What if the masters are wrong about this move?  Is there a branch to the tree that bears riper fruit than what they can see?

A player can become engrossed in the novelties and beauty of the tactical middle game, that great wellspring of human creativity.  We all secretly dream of being Morphy at the Opera House, our games studied and admired for centuries thereafter.

The endgame appeals to those with an exacting mind who understand the physics and equations of the game.  There are two solutions to the quadratic, and the engineer knows them both.  This endgame is a function with one answer to each of the opponent’s possible moves.  The engineer has internalized it.

If I can be psychologist, historian, and mathematician, if I can be scientist, artist and engineer, then I can be Renaissance Man of chess.   Chess is seductive.  It draws me in with its passion, the Passion of Chess, and I am enticed by its allure.


  • 7 years ago


    Long time since this was written, but I can't help but read over some of your older material.

    Well written, and hopefully, you'll play a match that will be admired after centuries for some of the most beautiful moves to be played on the square board.

    A great fan,


  • 7 years ago


    Lets move some pieces!

  • 7 years ago


    CHESS is just awesome..

  • 9 years ago


    hes my teacher =)
  • 9 years ago


    i have a friend who wrote an awesome awesome poem on chess, i'm going to see if she will possbily allow me to share it...
  • 9 years ago


    Well done! Crongrats.
  • 9 years ago


    i agree with you, i feel the same, chess is part of my life

  • 9 years ago


    Chess is awesome. I need some books.

    That article was my feelings for chess simply ripped out of my mind. Chess, it truly is one of the best things I've ever stumbled upon.

  • 9 years ago


  • 9 years ago


    nice article


  • 9 years ago


    Well said, you have unknowingly written my life as fated by chess. I read this post and remembered most vividly the time that I had taught myself the game and thereafter the art and the life of chess. I have also spent a small fortune on chess books and spent several restless nights studying them. I am utterly enamored with this game due to it's boundless array of creativity and precision, which are most distinctly seen in the middle game and end game. Being a psychologist myself, I wholeheartedly agree with your comment about being attracted to the personalities of chess. I applaud you for this well scripted blog for this has been the best read that I have come across. Kudos!
  • 9 years ago


    Kurtgodden inspired Grigmott & both wrote words of wisdom! That my friends, is what chess brings about: a whole universe of art, engeneering, mathematics & even astrology to it!   Let's keep playing!
  • 9 years ago



    The topic is named using the word "passion". And it's obvious that the man devotes plenty of his time to chess. I ask myself - is it the best choise of adult man? Does it make life better? Does it give something to people that surround me? Does it give something to my old dreams or goals? What am I doing here?

  • 9 years ago


    And one more thing... The passion OF chess, the passion TO chess - huge diffenrencies and so on..

    “The reality of things is the work of nature, the appearance of things is the work of man, and a nature that delights in appearance is no longer taking pleasure in what it receives, but in what it does."
    Friedrich Schiller

  • 9 years ago


    Well Riga, it's true that ANY mental activity can be used as a form of escape from the world we live in, and chess, being as engrossing as it is, can easily prove to be a trap from which it's hard to escape. But it's very much possible, as DELLOV can attest, to both appreciate the intricacies the game has to offer and not let it devour your every conscious thought.

     It's even been proven through research that playing and studying chess can actually increase one's mental rigor. Though, at the same time, it's been proven through many unfortunate examples that going too far into the game can detach one from reality, leading down that scary road to schizophrenia.

    I guess its a matter of moderation. Appreciation and obsession are two clearly distinct things, and though chess can inspire both, a healthy sense of Self can keep one from straying too far into the latter.

  • 9 years ago


          Sometimes there is a big desire for express to someone near what are you doing, what is going on in your life. That helps you to understand it, and it is an act to become related with it, not to lose.  But not always it tells us the truth, as it has another aims. The thuth can differ from emotions.

           The word "passion" is in the title, so what passion really is? Is it good? This question is on my mind, because I can't answer for it and tell someone else to get involved in the passion to chess. There is a good book about chess, Nabokov's "The Luzhin Defense". Chess genious is facing the chess' alienation from surrounding life, illusory nature of chess' achievments.  The common question, that I ask myself,- is the intellectual amusement worth time, that you spend for it? What are the other problems, that you can devote your time and abilities to? Maybe it's a kind of escape? Maybe it's just a way NOT to think, NOT to work mentally? These are the words to think of, but of course, you can  leave them and be happy with your passion.

  • 9 years ago


       In my mid seventies and chess has become, for me, an ingredient to my life which adds a certain indefinable quality.  Certainly beats television any day of the week.  Music, Sport, Reading, Politics, The Weather, Health, Ageism, Crime, Greed, World Disasters, Not least one's own family:  All these are important in my life, and Chess may never get above an average mark for me,  but IT IS FUN!

    That is what I think all games should be about, and if it imposes an obsessive state of mind, then it should be ditched 'cos that just is not healthy.

  • 9 years ago


    i feel that homie, i've only been playing for a couple of years and im obsessed with the game.
  • 9 years ago


    Thanks for sharing that Kurt.  I am sure most people who play chess feel the same way.
  • 9 years ago


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