Sunday, October 25, 2020

The magic of chess

 I rarely do reviews. This is sort of a review and sort of a look back at some of my experiences with the game of chess. 

My high school lacked a lot of things. I dearly wished we had a chess team or at least a chess club. That was a long time ago.  I mention that because I never got into the world of competitive chess playing, though the concept intrigued me. Over the years I played chess when the opportunity came along, and that opportunity became rarer and rarer.  I worked for a while at a resort in Wyoming.  One of the cooks and I used to play now and then. We were of similar skill, so our games were quite enjoyable.  You don’t have to be some nerdy guy to enjoy a nice game of chess.  Then one day this rather obnoxious guy showed up who apparently just graduated high school. I guess his high school had a chess team. At least he claimed they did.  I was in the rec room and had just finished playing my cook friend. I offered to play the newbie. He accepted and then declared to his friend, “This won’t take very long.”  He was right about that. 

He realized he was in trouble in about three minutes.  He was shocked that I had him check mated in five minutes. He literally started crying and marched out of the rec room.  I never played him again.  I hate poor a poor looser. 

That all said, I find chess stories irresistible.  I don’t mean those dreary .non fiction books and articles about chess–I mean stories that have chess in them.  There aren’t every many.  Netflix had a show set in the sixties about chess, called Queen’s Gambit.   I stopped everything. I had to watch this.  

Now, I need to backtrack a little and mention how rare it is to see girls playing chess.  I’ve played chess at the gaming table of a few cons and elsewhere and have never played a girl or even seen a female play the game.  I don’t know why so few girls play, but it’s mostly the domain of nerdy guys, regardless of age.

So, back to this show.  It starts out with a nine-year-old who’s having a rough life. Her mother committed suicide and tried to murder her and she ends up in an orphanage.  Somehow, she manages to strike up a friendship with the crusty school janitor and learns how to play chess. Anyway, she gets really good.

Keep in mind that in this era the Soviet Union had chess players who were as popular as rock stars and they totally dominated the international sport. This is a really fascinating story that also gives the viewer a look at the world of tournament chess while also letting this orphan girl grow and deal with life at the same time she’s taking the chess world by storm. One little red-haired girl and all these boys.  

Well, I really liked this show.  I admit I’m a sucker for chess stories.  But this one has a lot to it and I haven’t ever seen anything quite like it.

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