These posts are getting more and more difficult to get up at night as my attentions continue to be centered on getting better at chess. I'm not sure that writing about chess on a daily basis is the best way to keep an audience entertained, but it may be helpful to mark my progress as a player. I can already see in games with my friends that my play is a lot better. I am doing a better job of getting all of my pieces involved in the game, and I am making less boneheaded mistakes. In all the years I've played chess, I have been completely reckless with my queen, and I'm going to guess that at least 80 percent of my losses due to losing my queen early.Now that I've realized the importance of developing a strong center, I've noticed that the queen serves more as an anchor. When you get your minor pieces into strong positions it completely opens up the board for for attack. I've never been particularly good at knowing where to play my knights, and now that I've put all my focus on center board control I've come to understand the power that knight can have in a centralized outpost. The second thing I've beginning to notice now that I have a around fifty games played in the past three days is that I am starting to see attack patterns develop in the midgame. In the past I would just mindlessly move my pieces in an attempt to get the quickest check mate possible, often times needlessly trading pieces because I was only worried about maintaining an aggressive posture. This is not a great way to play chess. Now I can see the value of attacking weak pieces, even if those pieces are just lowly pawns, if it means I can gain even the slightest of advantages. The game is a lot easier when you can build up a number of small advantages: whether they be advantages in position or in material. If you'll excuse me the lame boxing metaphor, it is better to be a technician like Floyd Mayweather, earning points every round while not taking a lot of punishments, then it is to be a George Forman, who wants to get into a slugfest, and opens himself up to losing in a few shots.
Speaking of slugfests - if you go to chess.com to play games, you have the option of watching grandmaster level players play bullet games in which both players have a three minute time limit, and if a players time runs out they lose, no matter what was happening in the game. This forces players to make split second calculations on moves that would take me a good five minutes to figure out. It's really fascinating to watch these players move at such breakneck speeds. I have a hard time keeping up with what they are trying to do, and it would take years of play before I would even attempt to play with such a strict time limit. The games that I am playing now have a 30 minute time limit, and the clock still effects the way I play.
Ok. Enough with the completely novice level chess game theory. I would like to say that one of the great joys in my life is picking up a new hobby and throwing myself whole-hog into understanding the ins-and-outs of it. Two years ago I got really into working out, and now I go to the gym at least four days a week without even thinking about it. Last year I made a point out of reading everyday, and now there isn't a day that goes by where I don't get at least half an hour of reading in. This year I took back up running, and now I'm well on my way to being able to run a 5K this summer. You add up all of these activities with a full time writing schedule and it doesn't leave a whole lot of room for a new hobby. I've already stopped playing video games, and my sports consumption is down about 300 percent from where it was two years ago. These days the only sports I have on are random basketball games, and that is just to have something on in the background while I am writing, or -as of late - playing chess! I'm not sure if chess will become the hobby that basically fills in the rest of spare time I have in a day, but it sure is awfully satisfying to be learning a game that has so much history, and an almost endless amount of strategy and variation in it's play styles.