I retired from chess in 1977 at the age of 12. I wasn’t a pro player. I wasn’t in any tournaments. I was just a kid in Lincoln, Nebraska looking for a good game. I was studying the game eight hours a day every day of the week. I was the 7th Grade self-crowned King of Chess at Robin Mickle Jr. High School until, that is, I cleared a chessboard of its plastic pieces while I thought I was playing a friend in Chess — until others in the class started to line up next to him, giving turns advice, and warning him against my traps — and I ended up playing the entire class Over the Board (OTB), even though we had a strict “no kibitzing” rule that, I guess, applied only to me. If I had been clearer minded, and perhaps a bit more mature, I would have taken it as a compliment that it took 28 other kids to give me a good game; but, back then, winning was everything, and resigning with a dramatic sweep of the arm across a chessboard was just too tempting to ignore. 1972 was a great year for Chess when the world turned, and it was still spinning in 1977. Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky for the World Championship in 1972, and the Cold War was Hot again! Now, after my retirement in 1977, 44 years later today, I’m back in the Chess game by demand of dying age, and wondering spectacle, and next I’ll tell you more about the why of it; and I’ll also explain the story behind the curious board setup you see below. Chess, the ancient game, changed a lot over a half century!
I retired from Chess at 12 not out of reason, temper tantrum, or cause, but of boredom. Lincoln, Nebraska was not a big Chess hub in 1977, and if I wanted to find someone to play against, they were either much older — and ravaged my game without mercy or cause, and I accepted that; I knew there was never a “go easy on me” in Chess because everyone plays to win — or my opponents were my age, or not, but didn’t know a thing about Chess, and so I had to teach them in order to play them. It’s sort of a bad thing to teach your other self how to play Chess because you know precisely what they don’t know as well as everything you do know.
As an only child, Chess was a getaway. Chess taught you to think. Chess was logical. Chess was (usually) unemotional. You could play Chess against yourself by playing both sides of the board. The board I had in 1977 was, I discovered 44 years later, a “Medieval” royalty set, and in my want to return to Chess, I became nostalgic about my lost Chess set. I was able to find one online, almost the exact version I had in 1977! My Chess pieces were not plasticized marbled. They were traditional black and white, but the design is exactly the same! Oh, the hours I spent moving around with these friends! I commingled the old with the new in the first image of his article. The now me; the then I.
In 1977, I just played Chess. I always played a modified Queen’s Gambit, but back then, I didn’t know what that meant or even what an opening was in Chess. My vision was trained. I could look at a board and I knew in a second where I stood to attack, and how my opponent planned to attack me. 44 years later, I learned my board vision has dimmed. I have to work a lot harder to regain that depth of perception. I have always played Chess over the last 44 years, but I played infrequently, and without consequence, or any real staked interest in perpetuation — until now. Today, my plan is to build a better mind, and construct a more wholesome understanding of the greatest game of all time.
The most shocking part about returning to the board is how much of Chess is now online and virtual. I had one of the first electronic chess sets where you would move your pieces, and the board just knew where you were moving and how to respond. Red lights marked the corner of the square being utilized. It was a challenge to beat the computer.
Today, Chess is overwhelmingly accessible and accomplishable. You can find people all over the world to play a game with you at any time of day or night. You can play against a myriad of online computers. You can study openings. You can test your endgame. You can join 10 chess websites and find 10 more you want to join as well. I’m in full learning mode now.
The greatest thing about online Chess is you no longer have to teach yourself. You can be taught right, by the right experts, right from the start. I can only imagine how great a Chess player I may have been if I had Chess available online, all the time, every waking moment.
The only trouble I have found is there are so many places you can play Chess online that you don’t know where to start because each website has its own pitfalls and pinnacles. You sort of want to “pick a home” to play so you can build up your game stats, but there is a temptation to also spread yourself out across all the major sites so you can pick up a game any time you want without worrying about your friends not being part of a similar assimilation.
Here’s the standard bio I use across all Chess sites that allow it:
I decided to come out of my self-imposed retirement 44 years later because I missed the game. I enjoy the challenge of pitting one logic against another. The Covid-19 pandemic pressed us all inside, and I spent a lot of time watching Chess videos in my spare time to try to catch up on what I missed. I decided I had enough watching, and now it was time for me to more seriously start playing again.
I also learned Chess cheating is a big problem online, and that means you have to play quicker, and faster, games that don’t allow the Bots and the Bad Behaving people to run their moves through a computer first before making a play. In 1977, we didn’t use timers. My games were always OTB, and you just took as long as you needed to make a move. Now I realize I have to think more quickly, evaluate more effectively, and move! I do like the idea of quicker games. You can move mountains over your losses if you’re quick enough, and resilient enough, to just click to continue on; plus, it’s much harder to “clear the chessboard” with an angry swipe of your aged Junior High arm. You just win or lose, and don’t worry about kibitzing kids or computers.
If you’re looking for a good game for you, and a bad game for me, I’m you’re punching boy — or, if you’re no good, then we’ll be fine friends together in our misery. Look me up, and friend me, on the following sites if you want to play, with one caveat to come:
On Chess.com my username is: BolesBooks
On Lichess.org my username is: BolesBooks
On Chess24.com my username is: Boles
On Chessbase.com my username is: BolesBooks
On KasparovChess.com my username is: Boles
On ChessClub.com my username is: Boles
The one caveat is this, I’m going to eventually try to play most of my games on the FIDE website. On the Fourth of July, I discovered the online FIDE site via WorldChess.com and I learned that if you register, and pay for a Pro account, you can get an official FIDE ID that you can later add to your official country Chess affiliation — for me, the US Chess Federation — and you can play FIDE online via their Arena.MyFIDE.net website to earn FIDE points that lead to official titles. I registered, paid, sent in proof of identity, and FIDE had my account set up with my ID two hours later.
It’s interesting that my official “FIDE Online Arena Rating” starts at 900 — with a first chance at an officially recorded ratings.FIDE.com title arriving when I hit 1100 — while playing non rated games on the same system is identified as a “World Chess Internal Rating” of 1200. When you play online in the FIDE Arena, you can choose to play rated or unrated games. Only rated games count towards a title.
Sure, you’re competing for a special, new, online, FIDE “Arena” titles — but if you don’t have the money, or the time, to travel the world to play in standard OTB FIDE-sanctioned competitions — then it doesn’t matter if there’s an “A” before your FIDE title:
The 12-year-old me grasping to castle the 56-year-old body is delighted by the possibilities of finally living up to the Chess challenge of the 1977 braided prairie with a chance at a FIDE title!
So, the caveat continues: Find me on FIDE, and play me there. I realize that to conserve space, and time, it’s smarter for me to try to eventually concentrate on ranking up on the FIDE site, and work on getting a title than it is to rack up generic wins and losses on the other Chess websites, but, that said, I’m happy to play you where you want to be found. Right now, I’m in intensive training mode; I’ve only been “back at it” for about a month, and I’m still working on getting up to speed, taking lots of online lessons, and retrieving my vision. I know this will be a years-long rebuilding process of playing.
I’ll friend you anywhere, any time. If you want to check in via email first, please use our Contact page, tell me who you are, and what your experience is, and what your plans are, and I’ll get back to you! Don’t worry about your standing or rating. I’m delighted to play at any level. Male. Female. Old. Young. Dog. Cat. I’ll play pretty much anything or anyone; however, if you happen to be an alumni of the Robin Mickle 7th grade class of 1977, no kibitzing — in person, or via computer — allowed!
I also plan to put up a few blog posts on Chess.com. Here’s my blog website over there.
Here are some of my favorite video clips from Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. He’s all over Twitch, and Chess.com, and Twitter, and he makes Chess accessible and fun. Plus, watching him teach in real time is an earned joy because he explains things well. Just follow along, and let him lead you into the logic. Yes, these Hikaru videos are confusing and silly, but that’s okay. It’s all a part of the play.
Or here. Here. Here. Here. Here.
And here here here here here.
Here here here here here. pic.twitter.com/rnwGoK1oDv
— Hikaru Nakamura (@GMHikaru) July 1, 2021
Or, just follow the arrows.
We’ll go here and here and here here here and there together.