Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The year was 1956.  I was a 12-year old boy in 7th grade at John J Pershing Jr High School in Houston, Texas.  One day during recess, I noticed some of the older boys playing a game on a checkerboard.  I moseyed over to have a look.  My, it was a strange, but compelling, game.  I didn't understand it.

A Solitary Pawn
I asked how the game was played.  No one seemed to want to tell me.  It was only later, as time went on, that I discovered why no one wanted to tell me how to play---the game could not really be explained adequately in a few sentences.  It had to be experienced.
The Rook
So, day after day, week after week, I observed the chess matches that the older boys played during recess.  Slowly, Clint began to get the hang of it.  At some point, I was brave enough to begin to play also.  I was a beginner, so I got trounced regularly.  But, slowly, I saw the greatness and the genius of this game.  It wasn't long before I knew that this was---and is---the greatest game of wits ever invented.

The Knight
It is purely a game of skill and experience.  The pieces---16 on each side---are mesmerizing to hold in one's hand. 

The Bishop
Each side has 8 pawns.  The pawn is limited in power.  But, before you think they are unimportant, know that they are usually key to control of the center of the board---essential for good prospects of winning.

The Queen
Each side has two rooks---powerful pieces shaped like a castle.  The rooks operate on the vertical and horizontal columns.

The King
Each side has two knights---the most unique piece on the board.  The knight, shaped like a steed, is an attack piece that can jump over other pieces.

A Teenaged Bobby Fischer in 1957
Each side has two bishops.  Bishops move on the diagonals---one on the white diagonal and one on the black.

Gary Kasparov, Widely Regarded as the Greatest Chess Champion of All Time
Each side has one queen---the most powerful piece on the board. It combines the power of the rook and the bishop.  It wears a crown.

Present World Champion Viswanathan Anand
Each side has one king.  The king is very limited in power, and must be protected at all costs.  A cross sits atop the king.

Grandson Canyon and Me Playing Chess At Christmastime
The object of the game is to position your pieces so that the opposing king is placed in a position of constant check from which he is unable to escape.  This is called checkmate.

When I first began playing this game I had no idea that it has such a rich background.  Its rudimentary origins go back about two thousand years.  The game as we know it today evolved around 1200 AD.  Writings about how to play chess began to be seen around 1500.  The first modern tournament was held in 1851.

I Have Referred to This Book Countless Times Over The Years
Since then, the sport has seen as entertaining a mix of brilliant personalities as can be imagined.  While Russians such as Gary Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov have dominated the sport, other nationalities have produced their share of champions.  Tigran Petrosian (Armenia), Emanuel Lasker (Germany), Jose Raul Capablanca (Cuba), Paul Morphy and Bobby Fischer (United States) have all been brilliant players in their day.  The current world champion is Viswanathan Anand of India.

These days, I often play against a computer on my cell phone.  The computer has 10 levels of expertise, so that I can play against the very simple (level 1) all the way up to expert (level 10).  I usually am fairly competitive at level 5.  I don't think I will progress much past this level without getting some personal instruction, which I don't think is going to happen at this stage of my life.

But, the game and its history fascinate me.  It also helps keep the mind sharp.  Matter of fact, I think I'll play a game now.......P-Q4.


  1. We need to have a game sometime. My ego could stand a kicking. ;-}

    1. Yeah, but think how terrible it would be if you won and your ego got even more inflated! Ha.

  2. Your wife truly needs to learn how to play. I am so glad you have given Canyon lessons. It was special hearing he had written about the chess lessons in his journal ... didn't know first graders did journals but I like this idea. It is good as we age to keep our minds occupied in ways such as playing chess.

    Glad to see you wrote a blog post on chess.


    1. Even if you never learn how to play, you are still the queen of this house.

  3. I love to read pieces written by people who love the topic. Nicely done, my friend. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  4. I've never played chess, although I would like to learn how at some point. I do like that the queen is all powerful...

  5. I never learned to play chess, but it's fantastic that you are playing with your grandson. Better than sitting all day at the computer and playing games.


  6. It is a fun game. But takes a lot of thought... not one of my favorites. But it is fun.

  7. Clint, I know nothing about chess; but it makes perfect sense to me that the "queen" would be the most powerful piece on the board. :)

  8. Hi Clint, chess is a wonderful game to play with Canyon. It will give you many hours of quality time together and much to talk about. The stategies of chess can be related to everyday life and there are many valuable lessons to be learned. I sometimes play a game on the computer but that's it; I am not really any good at it.

  9. Could you teach me, please?
    Even from fare away?

    No, I am teasing...
    I think, one has to do such a great play in his/her youth!!!

  10. I have to admit I never learned how to play chess. But my husband does and so does my grandson. In fact grandson is in the chess club at school. ENJOY! sandie

  11. Clint - so fun seeing that photo of you and your grandson playing chess.

    My husband taught my grandson Cayden to play chess when he was 4 and he is pretty good at it.

    Loved your post.

  12. I love how children have no problem learning to play chess while a lot of adults(I am one) think it is too hard. But then computers don't faze kids either. I have always wanted to learn, maybe now I will give it a try. Thanks.