Why play chess?

I am playing in the Irish Intermediate Chess tournament, in the Royal Dublin Hotel, on O’Connell St, this weekend. Five games of chess, that’s all.

I always get very nervous before these events, I don’t quite know why. I always finish mid-table, or worse, and only now and again do well. It isn’t nerves over winning or losing, plenty of both of which I have done recently. But for some reason, the tension just gets more and more as the game progresses. It starts within reason, because I have plenty of time, but gets unbearable for me in any time scramble. The worst moment is waiting for the opponents reply when you’ve just played a bad move. Aaargh.

It isn’t the thought of looking bad in front of others either. Aside from the odd onlooker (and let’s face it, chess fans are decidedly odd!), no-one knows or cares. That’s not strictly true, but let’s face it, I ain’t Vladimir Kramnik, and even he wouldn’t make it into an Irish newspaper.

I sometimes feel exhausted and deflated after a tournament. I once played a tournament in Galway where all three of my games on a Saturday finished more or less right to the end. That’s 3 and a half hours of intense effort for each game. That’s 10 and a half hours in a day, starting at 9.30am and not finishing until 11pm or later. I remember getting a pounding headache and hardly any sleep that night, only to have to play two more games on the Sunday! I’ve played tournaments where I’ve lost my first three games and spent the entire rest of it playing the other retards at the back of the hall. All the little kids in way above their heads, or the older players who’ve come out of retirement etc.

There’s no glamour, either. Indeed, I cannot think of a less glamorous hobby. It’s the same boring old faces every year, the venues don’t change, the conditions can vary from cold to stuffy, and, frankly, nobody really cares whether you win or lose.

So, the question has to be: why do it?

I don’t really know. Maybe it is the love of chess, pure and simple. I love the pieces, the board, the clock. I love the opening, the middle game, the ending. I love playing combinations or delivering mate. I love the exotic names of the openings, such as the Queen’s Indian, the King’s Indian, the Benko Gambit, the Ruy Lopez, the Guioco Piano, even the Bluemenfeld Counter Gambit. Who could resist the Kalashnikov variation? The Winawer variation of the French defence?

That still doesn’t explain it though. Maybe I’m just slightly insane.



  1. Tony D said,

    June 29, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Yes some of is insanity al right! But then there is the beautiful game itself, the unfolding drama and tension. The idea of having actually created something [good or bad]

    A beautiful theme or motif, a nice tactic, clever plan [realised or not] battle of ideas etc etc.

    As it happens though, being in the royal dublin hotel is pretty nice and not a bad way to spend time? Go to the bar or restaurant or just a place in or around the area?

    We need more people enjoying the social side of things, meeting up after lunch and trading stories of their games etc etc

    You think it is bad with just two days at the weekend? How the poor bastards there for nine days? Now they really are nuts! But thank jasus for crazy people right?

  2. David said,

    June 29, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Best of luck to you shazgood. May the force be with you. Nice post. I suspect that maybe the competitive aspect would make one nervous, but you clearly love the game for its own beauty, and enjoy the play, win, lose, or draw. That’s what games all about, right?

  3. shazgood said,

    June 29, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks for the comments lads, I appreciate the good wishes.
    I am only half joking I suppose. I get a great buzz from playing competitive chess. I do wish the social side was better, I normally end up chatting to one or two Rathmines lads or maybe bumping into someone in the bar. But I don’t drink at these events, because I simply collapse chess-wise if I do, so I normally don’t get much from the social side.
    Chess can produce “art” in the fullest sense, which is unusual because usually art is a 100% sole activity. Take writing, painting, music (composing that is), they are all usually the product of one mind. But a chess game is the product of two minds in unison.
    I am looking forward to the Royal Dublin too, it is a good venue, better than the St. Michael’s church hall in Inchicore, or St. Benildus school!!

  4. Jerry said,

    February 19, 2009 at 9:48 am

    How to relax when playing chess? i always nervous when playing in tournament..it will causes me to loss the game…please help me….

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