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Jeff's Gameblog
Wednesday, 31 March 2004
Chess: A Loser's Perspective
Since gaming is my hobby of choice I try to take losing in stride. My D&D character gets eaten by a dragon? No biggie. I score fewer points in a German game than everyone else? There's always next time. My forces are crushed in a wargame? Every general has his off days. Chess is where the losses come fast and furious for me. I've never studied chess the way serious players do. High-level Advanced Squad Leader and Star Fleet Battles players have nothing on hardcore chess geeks. Although I've never had much interest in bearing down and becoming a good chess player, I sometimes get this urge with xiangqi (Chinese chess). The open structure of the xiangqi set-up and the nifty cannon pieces really make for a fast and furious chess game. It doesn't take too long into a game of xiangqi before I can be in your bases, killing your d00ds. Of course, I'm usually not the one doing the killing, because I suck at chess. Right now I'm playing about 10 games of xiangqi over at ItsYourTurn.com. My level of success ranges the entire continuum from barely holding my own to totally blowing goats. That's usually where I'm at when I play chess, in sucksville. People I have taught xiangqi to have beaten me on their first game. Heck, my recent solitaire playtest of my new variant SpaceWarp44 was so error-ridden that at the end of the game I felt like I had managed to lose to myself.

Unlike many other types of game, losing at chess sometimes really brings me down. There's a purity of essence to chess. The window dressing is sparse. The set-up is absolutely symmetrical. You can't blame a chess loss on a bad die roll or a poorly written scenario. There's no way to rationalize yourself out of the plain and simple fact that the other guy whupped you. And I can't always find that zone that allows you to enjoy the game and the beauty of your position crumbling around you. In a good wargame a route is a thing to behold. In chess a loss is often just a loss. Still, I go through spates of loving chess and chess variants. My last such episode lasted much of 2001 and into spring 2002. I'm apparently entering another one now. Before I lose steam again I'm hoping to make a few contributions to chessvariants.com, learn to program zrf files for the great computer game Zillions of Games and maybe win a couple games. I'm also tempted to take up anti-chess or some other loser's chess variant. In anti-chess you win by running out of pieces, kinda like lowball poker.

Posted by jrients at 5:21 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, 1 April 2004 5:03 PM CST

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