Chess is part of life now.

Every day, I wake my body with coffee, my brain with blitz chess. When I first began, I went from zero to 820 but then suffered a string of defeats and dropped to 600. I haven’t played against a human since, but I’m regularly beating the computer at 1400. Not the same as a live opponent, but it’s a start.

I’ll never be a good chess player. My middle-aged brain struggles to memorise the openings. I’ve tried, but my brain just isn’t wired for stuff like that. I even purchased a classic chess book — Chess Fundamentals (1921) by Jose Raul Capablanca — but he lost me on page 4.

Thanks Jose.

Whether I ever ‘git gud’ at chess is irrelevant, though, because I’m enjoying it, and it’s making me sharper. I now have the greatest appreciation for pawns. I won’t be pinned or forked. I understand what sacrifice means. I know the horsey moves in an L-shape.

Even more thrilling is the analysis you get after each match. I have never found a ‘brilliant’ move, until today. My ratio of ‘best moves’ is increasing and my ‘blunders’ are disappearing. Progress has been slow and steady. And I like winning.

I’d like to apply this metric to life. See my ratio of ‘missed wins’ against ‘great moves’ improve. Book moves, where you’ve simply aped the openings of masters, aren’t nearly as exciting to me as toughing it out on your own from square one. There are no rehearsed openings to life.

It’s also time to update my playlist of”chess songs’ and once you’ve enjoyed Juga’s contributions (“Go tactical, stay unpredictable”) then maybe revist Murray Head and all the covers. The DJ R&B remix is my favourite: you want to be finished in under ten minutes? This is for you!

There isn’t a chapter on that in Capablanca, but I’m sure he woulda if he coulda. And yes, it’s time for me to swallow my pride and start playing humans again. Time to make the hard man humble.

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