Rethinking Games from My Youth

When you’re a kid learning how to play games from adults, you latch on to certain things, depending on your personality and perspective. For me, in Scrabble, it was “Oooooo…7-letter word. Aaah…triple-word score.” I was a nerdy, dictionary-reading kid, so as part of my strategy, I also memorized the “q” words that could be spelled without a “u.” In my circle of family and friends, I was a very good Scrabble player.

Fast forward about 30 years. I started playing Words with Friends online, and one of my pals was whipping my butt. The worst part? He was doing it with plain, old, two-letter words, stacked one on top of the other and attached to another word on the board. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit it, but I’d never considered that as a strategy. I was too mired in the “rules” as I had learned them—or perceived them—as a child. Needless to say, my Scrabble game has greatly improved.

Which leads us to chess. I came home from a friend’s house one day at the tender age of five and surprised my dad with the ability to play chess. I suppose it was impressive at that age. At 47, when you’re still playing like your former, five-year-old self, not too impressive.

Enter Chess.com. I began playing with my Words with Friends pal, and he repeated his butt-whipping performance. That is, until I started taking advantage of the free resources on Chess.com and went on a 17-game winning streak.

So, here’s my analysis. I know you’re waiting for it. As a child, I learned how to move my pieces and internalized “Don’t let them get your king.” As a result, I was a reactive player. No strategy. I would haphazardly move pieces and when one threatened, I would react. With the help of Chess.com, I’ve learned to get those power pieces on the board, castle early, set up pieces six moves ahead, and use certain pieces together.

Bobby Fischer: Please, no visitations from the other side. I understand there must be even more than this, but for me this is huge. Let me have my moment of glory.

[Men, look away for a moment. Women of a certain age: If you’re suffering from a fuzzy, perimenopausal brain, you’ll be pleased to know that playing chess has returned me to my former, sharp-minded self. I assume this “therapy” would also be beneficial to women in the postpartum stage, but we all know you don’t have time to brush your teeth, let alone play chess. Men, welcome back.]

Just before I started playing chess again, I caught a movie on Netflix that, no doubt, inspired me to take it up again. Queen to Play is a French movie, starring Kevin Kline and Sandrine Bonnaire, with a bit but tingly performance by Jennifer Beals of Flashdance fame. Totally hot, flirtatious, seductive, and that’s without an ounce of sex. It’s like porn for the intellectual. Sort of. Check out The New York Times review to whet your appetite.

So, do you wrinkle your nose at all properties except Boardwalk and Park Place, or are you a real estate tycoon? Do you play rows of same-color guesses in MasterMind or mix it up from the start? Do you focus on the corners or the middle in Battleship? Let’s discuss.