Monday, 9 January 2012

The Backward Pawn

Nobody around me knew how to play chess when I was small. My parents didn’t know nor did my friends. Atleast I think my friends' didn’t because if they knew, you can be sure that I would have learnt it by default;-D. That’s how I learnt to play most of the games like scrabble, carroms, chinese checkers, Uno, bluff, roller-skating, riding a geared bike….I can go on.


Oh please Snakes & ladders & ludo were kids stuff. Even now I mentioned it only because you asked;-/.

And whatever I knew I was quick to teach my kids. So they knew how to play Carroms, Chinese checkers, Scrabble, Uno…no, not bluff[ I havent introduced them to playing cards yet], before they even knew how to read.

Alright alright Scrabble came after they learnt how to read.

Gosh u guys nit-pick so much;-S.

Now chess is the one game I never learnt but heard lots about.….

Not everybody can play Chess….
You need to be good at maths to play chess....

People who play chess are very intelligent...
Chess has to be learnt young….

Eating lots of okra helped chess players….

If I tax my memory some I’ll definitely recall more useless information. But as a child & even in my teens I swallowed all these stories verbatim.

When I was in my 20’s one or two people offered to teach me seeing my interest but I shrank back from…..I don’t really know what. One reason could be that I thought it was too complicated and the person teaching me will think that I’m a fool. I had also convinced myself that it was too late to learn.

Vishwanathan Anand was a genius in my book. I never missed any article about him in the sports section. Much of the jargon on chess would have gone over my head but I still read every word on him. Chess was not like cricket or football. It was about mind games….. and Vishwanathan Anand battled against the BEST in the world and came out tops. In my mind he seemed of the few celebrities I idolised.
Oh for goodness sakes, let’s just leave Salman Khan out of this conversation shall we. Sometimes I wonder why I tell u guys all my secrets;-/.

During the shopping festival here, some malls put rows and rows of chess boards for people to play. No prizes offered just pure entertainment for the players and the crowd. I would have no clue what was going on but I’d stand there and watch. The facial expressions of the players, the tension in the air, their fingers deliberating over the next move, everything fascinated me.

The kids playing on a life-size board
And then there are these life-sized chess boards which are put on the pavements…..mostly monopolized by little children who play the game with their companions or parents. It is heart-warming to watch little geniuses carefully considering their next move & then manfully dragging the huge pieces across the board.

The better-half taught the kids how to play the game 2 years back. I was so thrilled when they grasped the nuances of the game & began playing on their own. But soon was disappointed because they didn’t really concentrate; they played but often abandoned the game over flimsy reasons. And because I didn’t know how to play I couldn’t guide them or judge who the offender was.
The tragedy was that unlike the other games they never took the chess board out on their own to play; I had to coax and cajole them into it and they played like they were doing me a major favour;-(. Naina especially was so irritating. I would often hear her ‘Chechi look, you can kill me if you do this’. Even though I didn’t know chess I definitely knew Naina was not going to win matches if she was showing people how to score over her. After sometime I too lost interest and the chess-board was carefully packed back into its cover & stowed away.

Recently the kids went to a birthday party & Nikita won a chess set as 1st prize for some game they had played. Interest in chess returned tenfold and they spent a lot of time setting up the board and walking around the house with it. My elation dipped when realisation dawned. You see it was a magnetic chess board. They walked round and round the house with the board & its pieces facing downwards to the ground basically to test the magnetic pull between the board & the pieces;-/.

When they were finally convinced that the pieces were not going to crash to the ground they settled down to play. Their father helped them renew their memories and skill and soon they were playing with a lot more interest than what they showed last year.

“You don’t know how to play chess????” queries Naina incredulously recently when I tell her why I can’t play with her.

I shake my head mournfully.

“I’ll teach you mama” says Naina excitedly.

“Not now Naina maybe someother day, go play with chechi now” I reply absent-mindedly, my mind occupied with mundane matters.

But Naina had made up her mind she was going to teach me. She followed me all around the house with the chess-board and went on and on about the game.

I admitted defeat after sometime and sat down to let her teach me. I had to get her off my back somehow. As soon as we started Nikita appeared on the scene and competed with Naina to teach me. They then proceeded to argue, debate, shout eachother down while each tried to educate me about how chess should be played. I held my head in despair and tried to think clearly thru the din. My 1st instinct was to walk away but I knew the kids would be so disappointed. And I always wanted to learn how to play didn't I??
I finally restored calm & issued a direct order that both were not to open their mouths until I asked them to. I then asked all the questions to each of them in turns.

2 hours and 3 games later I was beginning to see the light. I was royally beaten by both of them but I got the hang of how the game worked. The very next day I beat Naina and felt like a world champion. I haven’t been able to beat Nikita yet though I scared her once or twice [yes she’s good at it but I could be biased;-D].

Honestly I was taken aback at how easily I took to it……all my life I thought that chess was some complicated labyrinth which required super powers to understand. At the ripe old age of 38 I finally learnt to play Chess.

It was all in my mind….the mental block which made me think I'm a dimwit who would not be able to grasp the rules even if somebody taught me. I’m so glad my little one bullied me into learning it. Though I pretend to be very reluctant about playing[reverse psychology…… to get the kids more interested in the game;-)] I am hooked.

Things I don’t understand I clarify with the better-half. I haven’t played a game with him yet. But one day I will. In the meantime I’m secretly practicing my moves to knock his socks off.

Oh get your mind out of the gutter people, I was talking about my chess moves;-D.

Are there any valuable tips you want to leave for this blog friend and chess enthusiast??? I need all the help I can get. I’d also love to hear about your experiences with chess.

Edited to ask: Just suppose I am at a point where I have to give up either my Bishop or the Rook, which one should I sacrifice: the Bishop or the Rook???


  1. first?? :-)
    wow you got to strike out one of your new year goals so soon into the year..congrats!!!
    well, am a novice when it comes to playing chess. I can just about play the game and cannot strategize to win, et all. My granny taught me to play when I was a kid..nice game though..

  2. Yes, yes a few days into the year and I've turned one of my long-time wishes into reality. Makes me think I need to have a few more;-D
    Ur grandmother taught u....coool. Well, take the board out & brush up ur skills, soon u'll be pitting ur brains against your son's;-D.

  3. People will tell you to lose bishop. But it really depends on which stage of the game you are in. During the beginning stages, bishop is very important and during the later stages rook is very important.

    BTW, you should read my incredible technique before you play with your spouse. Who knows, this technique could be very useful then -

    Destination Infinity

  4. HI... it felt like you were telling my story as i too never attempted playing chess as i thought it was the privilege of the likes if Vishwanath Anand.

    Kudos to u for learning it at 38. And all the best for the contest with hubby :)

  5. Destination Infinity: Thanks for the tips and will definitely chk out ur post...I need all the help I can get;-D.

    Aabha Midha: Thanks and thanks all wishes gratefully accepted:-D.

  6. Nancy, you have definitely inspired me to learn the game. I have always pretended I wasn't interested. Perhaps the fear of looking like a fool was the main reason:):) OK, time to get a chess set! I will be back with tips once I have mastered the game - which, of course, won't take me long:)

  7. Nancy!Nancee!!Nanceeee....Just cheering you up with loud claps.

    Finally, I am seeing someone who keeps up her resolution.....Way to go..

    PS: Loved the way you have sent the message across about the mind blocks, of being open-minded about everything. Yes, time to get the gutter out of mind!!

    PPS: What did Naina say/do when she lost?

  8. Oh Clever N will figure all about Chess. Forget it.

    The better half does not know what is in store for him. Unless he's secretly reading this blog and practicing the Destination Infinity methodology (which is super by the way)

  9. wow u really got me excited about playing chess again after ages! look forward to playing with my kid once she is older.

  10. Amithigirl: Really!!! Oh I'm so excited for u Kala;-D. And don't forget abt sharing the tips...I'm waiting;-D

    RS: Thank U, thank U....hehe I claim no credit actually, if Naina hadnt pushed me I'd have procrastinated over it like everything else;-P. But I'm really glad I didnt wait;-D.
    Naina wasnt very pleased but since it was the 1st time I was winning I guess she was feeling magnanimous;-D.

    Ramesh:'m not clever and dont 'forget' it...I need all the help.....I'm totally depending on all of u.
    I was expecting lots of tips from u;-(....alright atleast answer the Bishop & Rook Q.

    Lilac: Hehe glad I cd be of help, start practicing now itself, the next gen are really smart cookies u knw;-D

  11. BRAVO my dear- I knew you could do it- if you put your mind to it. :) I've played chess on and off, but have not been very serious about it. I'm sure if we meet and you challenge me to a game, you will be the conqueror!

    Loved this post (but then when do I not love one of your posts?)

  12. omg LOL i am never reading ur blog while at office again...i laughed out loud at "Oh get your mind out of the gutter people, I was talking about my chess moves;-D." ROFL !

    And reg chess. I know the rules of the game. But I dont dare to play with anyone. I just get bored or I cant accept that I wont win anyway !

  13. Claps nancy - good for you.
    In the last post I mentioned that you need a lot of patience because ppl will strategize and think in advance about thier next moves whereas I just want to play fast and get over with it :)

    Is bishop- camel and rook--haathi? well it depends on what position of the game you are but if absolutely have to it shd be the camel...

  14. Give up the bishop - rook has more value. :)

  15. i can so relate to u! i absolutely understand why u never took up the game...the awe of chess has also made me never touch it. infact, recently i read in karnataka they may start teaching it in schools and was feeling so jealous of those kids!
    btw, u rock! u finally did it!

  16. way to go Nancy! :D i laughed out loud so many times while reading this, i can't even tell you. a really feel-good post :) if i absolutely had to, i'd lose the bishop.. have lots of fond memories of playing chess with my brother when we were younger. one of the tips i discovered on my own was to work out right before starting a game. i'd always win for some reason ;-) lol to this day i jog for a few mins before playing chess!

  17. Anjuli: Thank U and yeah I'm pretty pleased with myself too;-D. And its a deal....if and when we meet we play a game of chess;-D

    Anita Jeyan Sandeep: Aaaah the sore loser huh, my Naina & U shd team up together...boyyy she's one sore loser;-/.
    Glad u enjoyed the post;-D!!!!

    Horizon: Abt camel & haathi..actually I'm not so sure but it must be coz the rook moves straight so it makes sense that it is the elephant:-).

    Phatichar: Hmmmm....everybody is saying the same thing;-o.

    Limenlemons: Heyyy what a cool idea....schools teaching chess is a 'thinking' decision really.
    So when are u going to give it a try;-D???

    Snow: Work out before playing.....get the body all wired up & the creative juices flowing huh. Good idea!!!!!
    And heyyyy glad u liked the post;-D.

  18. I suggest if the Bishop is too preachy, push him off the cliff and get on to the rook and gallop away as fast as you can before the King's Men come after you :)

    Happy New Year to you Nance

  19. Hi,

    Been a while since I visited your blog - the last time was in 2010, I think.

    I can see that you've been busy picking up new skills and keeping your resolve.

    My first blog got stuck after 30 posts! because I was busy elsewhere. Now I have started a work related blog and that's been going well so far - an article a day fr 35 days, so far!

    Do check when u can find the time. Your stories are funny and home-grown - Keep 'em comin'!


  20. :) Need to bow down to you!! Wah! A brave entry into the world of wars and valliant heros and skills and tactics. Really somehow never was drawn towards this game, earlier, and as you say, sometimes regret a wee bit, mebe shouldve stepped right into it and mebe mastered it too!! (high hopes!).

    Kudos to you for having done that! and When i do take it up, shall come for some tips and confidence bolstering talks! :)

  21. Good to know you are interested in 64 Squares.

    My wife is a Chess and Table tennis coach. During weekends kids come to our home to learn and play.

  22. nance you are on schedule! i am at that point where my kids started beating me which goes to show my limit on the subject. still try to play for that occasional win:-) btw, i'd keep the bishop rather than the rook.

  23. Oh cooooooool!! really good going there. chess keeps ur mind sharp too!!
    i keep forgetting how to play the game :(

  24. Sakshi: LOL u r sooo funny;-D!!!
    And HNY to U tooo;-D

    Jayadev: Good to see U!!!! An article a day sounds awesome:-). And thank U for the kind words;-).

    Vaidegi: Haha u make me feel like I have wings & can fly without any effort;-D. Thank U:-))!!!!

    Maddy: Wow really;-o...thanks for warning me. Going to note it down in my diary....NEVER agree to play chess with Maddy at any bloggers Meet;-D.

    Lan: Aha a lone voice in favour of the Bishop....very interesting;-D

    Amrita: LOL I too [in my excitement] sometimes forget the Bishop can move only diagonally but the kids are too sharp;-(

  25. i played chess yesterday after ages thanks to ur post :D :D :D felt so good, even though i got my butt kicked in all 3 games :| need more practice... a lot of practice. but felt so so good!! :D

  26. ack i don know how to play n just cannot for some reason be interested in the game (maybe cos the brains need to be actually used) ;)

  27. Snow: aaah I can imagine the feeling.....:-D

    Open Book: Hahahaaa.....just give it a try....never know...u maybe good at it without even trying too hard;-D

  28. The bishop.
    (Nancy, this is my secret: at age 6 I became a professional chess player, competing and the whole nine yards. Hard to believe I know :-) A couple of years later I lost interest, and hardly played a game since... I am not even good at it anymore. But I do know that your rook is waaaay more valuable than your bishop!)

  29. Its a game with lot of thinking and I don't like thinking :-)

  30. Agnes: :-o......WOW!!!!!
    Reminds me of my BIL....seems like he was also extraordinary at the game[when he was around 6] and became obsessed with the game. After a couple of years the parents got worried & weaned him away.
    I know it's nothing like ur story, just that ur story brought to mind this story. Thanks for sharing:-))!!!!!

    Haddock: Hahahaaaa....thinking is too much hard work eh;-D

  31. me and younger bro learned it together at very young age N I remebr playing vth him ... rajavinellam vetti purathakki and palying only with pawns... :D..
    But now he has become a very good player . and I am still in that old level...

  32. Hehe....these younger siblings I tell u, are absolute horrors. Anything we do well, they take it up as a challenge to do better;-D.


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