Monday, September 8, 2008

Chess Is All About Having Fun

I remember how when I was a kid, I loved to play at my grandparents home.

I have the fortunate experience of having stayed in a "kampung" (a Malay term for village) before modernisation came to Singapore.

My grandparents lived in a small community called Jalan Siput that had coconut trees and sandy beaches. Sadly that place no longer exists. The beaches are gone because of extensive land reclamation by the government that extended the shores a good 2 km away. The village was also torn down to make way for sprawling rows of indistinguishable terrace houses of what is now called Hacienda Grove.

I miss my grandparents' home. I still remember it vividly. The house was of a simple construction. There was a front wooden porch painted in dark green. The roof was made of zinc and the toilet well, let's just say it won't past today's sanitation standards *grin*. There was also a well behind the house from where water was fetched. I remember the layout of the house like the back of my hand. It had a small living room with bedrooms on the left and right. The back of the living room extended to the kitchen which had a cemented floor. The floor was thus cold to the feet and my mum and aunties had to go around wearing wooden clogs when they were cooking. I remember how the sounds of the clogs "klok klok klok" that will resound throughout the house and you can tell how busy the kitchen was based on frequency of the "klok".

Every week, my dad will bring home a packet of mee goreng (see inset) which my brother and I would share.
Those were very happy and fun times and they will forever be entrenched in my mind.

But what's it got to do with chess?

For one, I play chess to have fun.

If a hobby (yes, it's a hobby after all) is not fun, then what is the point of engaging in it?

However, I also learnt that as with all things in life, people expectations towards chess are different and they vary from one to another.

Having played in 2 competitions so far, I have also experienced the bad sides of chess.

It's came to my notice that some players take chess as a form of an ego trip.

I've seen opponents trying to blatantly cheat (taking back pieces), I've heard of players trading rude remarks and of players resorting to various tricks in the book to annoy their opponents and of course, poor gamemanship or etiquette.

As the level of competition heats up, so too it seems, of people's ego and common courtesy goes out the window.

Sometimes, I'd really wonder if some of these players have their heads screwed on in the right places.


  1. Luckily the players i have encountered were all fair and sportive. But some players indeed need to learn manners.

  2. If people will resort to that kind of misbehavior in order to win a chess game, how far will they go when trying to accomplish something of greater significance?

  3. Funny, I almost never see that kind of poor sportsmanship in the tournaments that I play in.

    As for "fun," I guess it all depends on what your definition of "fun" is. I have several siblings who eschew any activity that smacks of competition. And they're not shy about speaking their mind when it comes to denouncing any talk with a hint of competitiveness in it.

    As for me (and I imagine every other chess enthusiast), it's all about the competition. There's absolutely no fun in winning if it's too easy. And getting rolled by vastly superior players isn't much fun either. But closely contested, hard fought games are the elixir.

    Taking on the challenge of trying to get better has an added dimension it didn't have 60 - 70 years ago before rating systems were introduced. Now we can measure our "progress" against a fairly objective standard. Of course, some of us get a wee bit too obsessed with our ratings, but that's part of the fun of it, as far as many are concerned.



  4. chesstiger: glad to hear that you've not encountered these hoodlums.

    in my case, i don't know if it's the case of the locality of the club or the self-reinforcing behaviours that exists in the club that encourages poor gamesmanship.

    greg: i have no answer to that unfortunately. it just saddens me greatly.

  5. es_trick: you're definitely spot on. the ratings definitely give players an idea of their expertise in that skill and competing against players of an equal or slightly higher level definitely generates buzz and fun!

    as for the ratings game, i'm pretty cool with ratings as in, i'm not overtly concern about ratings. i think ratings just reflect about your skill. if you improve, your ratings go up and vice versa.

    as in all things in life, the more you learn, the more experienced you become at something, the better you get eventually.

  6. No one tries to cheat me once they glimpse my massive biceps. (Over the Internet, casually mention your rigid workout routine, should have the same effect.)

  7. I don't feel like I've ever had an opponent outright cheat on me in a tournament. There have been sometimes where I feel as though an opponent has tried to play mind games with me, or has not been very gracious in defeat or victory. I've seen more crap in card games on the internet then I've seen in live chess games.

    I feel sorry for the person who feels they have to cheat at internet games to get some rating which in the grand scheme of things is meaningless. Who really cares if your internet rating is high or low?

    I try to stay positive about what I'm doing, and not be dragged down by the crap that others are resorting to.