Saturday, April 3, 2010


patzer: a casual, amateurish chess player.

When the Tar Heels disappeared like wet cotton candy in early January, I needed a new hobby crush. Poker, disc golf, writing and reading could not fill the void left behind by consecutive double-digit losses and depressing post-game eulogies.

I have played 450 online chess games since Christmas. You might think I made up that number, but my account at says it is true. If you pair those games with the dozen or so over-the-board games I coerced my friends to enjoy, you can see that I play a lot of chess. I average five games per day.

This hobby, like poker, is severely addicting. allows me to play any level of player in any type of timed game at any moment. It's just so easy to start a game. The site also offers correspondence chess, so I can play multiple games at a time against old college friends and colleagues. If I am on the site but don't feel like playing, I can improve my game with learning tools like the tactics trainer, the chess mentor and the daily puzzle. And through all of this, I see my rating rise and fall with victories and defeats. Talk about incentive.

My friend Ryan recently expressed interest, so I gave him a playable board for Christmas. He politely said thanks without understanding he had committed to my home invasions every week to play over-the-board blitz games. Those are the games I enjoy the most because he is a friend and I get to hear the beautiful cadence made famous in "Searching for Bobby Fischer": thump, smack, thump, smack.

Those healthy moments contrast with more frustrating ones. I sometimes lose concentration when online strangers talk me into checkmates. I always lose to talkers regardless of their ratings. One young fellow from California commented on the career listed in my profile and refused a rematch because he had to do his homework and get to bed on time. Ouch. I promptly made him my friend so I could play and lose to him a few more times.

I know I sound like a walking advertisement and have not written for a long time. Writing about chess might be the way back to my old hobbies, but I doubt I'll drop chess as long as that rating continues to climb. Maybe I won't be a patzer for long. I will close with a favorite quote and a reminder that even the best player in the world makes mistakes.

Play the opening by the book, the middle game like a magician, and the endgame like a machine.

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