Why Chess?

I was first introduced to the game of chess when I was 6 years old. I found a chess set at my grandmother’s house one summer and convinced my uncle to show me how to play. As I recall, I wasn’t very good. A few years went by and when I was about 15 years old I became obsessed with the game. It started out as wanting to be able to beat the other kids at school, but soon became more than that.

I often get asked about my chess obsession or have comments made by friends, family, and random acquaintances. These usually fall along the lines of “Why do you like chess so much?” or “I could never sit and think about something for that long.” Why do some people enjoy knitting, playing the guitar, or painting? If you ask those people the same questions or make the same comments, they might have a hard time putting it into words. I’ve often found it hard to put it in a way that people understand so I often reply “I dunno, I just do.” or “It’s not as hard as you’d think.”, but this is just dodging the question. I came across this quote from Tarrasch’s Best Games of Chess by Fred Reinfield and think it sums it up well:

Chess is a form of intellectual productiveness, therein lies, its peculiar charm. Intellectual productiveness is one of the greatest joys -if not the greatest one- of human existence. It is not everyone who can write a play, or build a bridge, or even make a good joke. But in chess everyone can, everyone must, be intellectually productive and so can share in this select delight. I have always a slight feeling of pity for the man who has no knowledge of chess, just as I would pity for the man who has no knowledge of love. Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy.

Siegbert Tarrasch

So I might just start telling people “It makes me happy.”

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