By Gerry Stafford
Ever since my husband taught me how to play chess when we were first married, I’ve loved this fascinating game. It’s challenging. No luck is involved. And in a typical game there are thousands of possible moves.
During the early years of our marriage, while raising our four children, we didn’t have much time to play chess. After our youngest child entered college we had more time to play. And when I worked as an after-school counselor with the YMCA, I offered the children in the Y’s program the opportunity to learn how to play chess. They loved it!
The children, from first to sixth grades, learned the basics of the game quickly. We had monthly tournaments and ribbons were awarded for first, second and third place.
After several years I left the program but still wanted to play. So I started the Lockport Chess Club, which lasted for about four years. We met monthly at the Lockport Public Library and a coffee shop. The club consisted of children and adults, and trophies were awarded to the winners of our annual tournaments.
My son suggested that I try online chess but I preferred playing the old-fashioned way, with my opponent sitting across from me.
Then I sprained my back two months ago, which forced me to stay at home and take it easy. Being homebound caused me to reconsider playing online chess. Maybe it’s worth trying, I thought.
After my son helped me to sign up on chess.com, I discovered the wonderful world of online chess. After five weeks, I was notified by the website that I had played 1,000 games. I guess you could say I’m a chess addict. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it? After all, there are worse things I could be addicted to. And since the coronavirus has most of us stuck in our homes, I’ve found that online chess is the perfect antidote to cabin fever.
Chess requires a player’s undivided attention, so there’s no time to worry about the virus. Online chess is a wonderful way to play because the website matches players with those of similar skill levels. And you can choose to play at different speeds. For example, I like games that give each player a total of 10 minutes to make all their moves, so a typical game lasts about 15 minutes.
One of the most interesting features for me is that I get to play people from all over the world. Players’ names (not necessarily their real names) appear on the screen along with the flags of their countries. So I’m having fun identifying the country each flag represents. I’m making a list of the countries I’ve played and I feel connected with the players from each country. So far I’ve played with people from 38 countries, including Germany, Ireland,, Spain, Jordan and Vietnam.
Another positive feature of online chess is that it provides players with an enjoyable way of staying mentally active. Some schools use chess as a way to help improve students’ math skills.
We are living in very challenging times, faced with spending so much time at home since so many of our everyday activities have been canceled. I’m very thankful that my husband taught me how to play chess and my son encouraged me to play the game online.
Gerry Stafford is a freelance writer, former teacher and author of "Young Canaller," a children’s historical novel about the Erie Canal.