Chess En Passant

Imagine an outdoor café on a lazy summer afternoon, or a shady park where a pair of thinkers plot their next move. There is a whispery breeze off the lake, and all is quiet and thoughtful. No battery-operated boom boxes, cell phones, or Game Boys within 100 miles. Are we in another galaxy? Well, at least think summer.

I read somewhere that chess has come back into fashion as the new “in” game. Going with that slim piece of information, I have dedicated this week’s column to the game of kings. If you want to learn, or if you want to improve your game, you might find these websites helpful. One especially nifty site visually demonstrates how a computer thinks through its move during an online game with you. That enough is worth seeing. Arm yourself with the piles of information and tips at these sites, then wait for warmer weather and carry your unplugged chess set outdoors to absorb the fresh air and sunshine while you play. No, don’t wait. Play now by a cozy fire and watch the snowflakes float down.

OnlineTurbulence. Might as well start with the eyeful of bells-and-whistles website where you can watch your online opponent (computer) plan its strategies against your every move. This website is not for the beginner, but it will become a resource once a player gets hooked on the game. Make an opening move, then watch the computer analyze, via colored lines and squiggles, all the possible countermoves it can make. Watch carefully enough and you can outwit your opponent, possibly. But you had better have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the game before this website can help you. Or, you can be fascinated by the Flash graphics even if you do not have any interest in learning chess.

Intuitor. This site gives clear and readable instructions for learning how to play chess. Also, it outlines beginning strategies to get started. Better than reading the instructions that came on the back of your chess set box. Speaking of chess sets, scroll down to find websites that sell fancy ones.

Mr. Fixit Online . Lots of stuff here to keep you occupied and your mind swimming. You can play free online games and open challenges with other players. You can observe games in progress. For intermediate users, try the chess puzzles—a collection of problems to solve. Hard-core chess players can take a quiz and find out how much they really know about past great games and the world champs of chess. If you know what “Deep Blue” is, this is the place for you. Hint: it’s not the ocean.

Chessarea. Hurry! Until January 31st you can receive a free chess assessment here. Otherwise, you will have to pay for the online help. The assessment analyzes your games and evaluates your strengths. Although this site says it offers chess instructions, too, what it really offers are books for you to buy that teach you chess. You can go to Intuitor for free, online instructions. Or to Jon Edwards’ website.

Chess History. My, my. What a lively debate I found concerning the origin of the game. Nothing cut and dried here. Chess experts talk about their theories, and the consensus is that chess developed somewhere along the Silk Road, possibly by a long-ago civilization known as the Kushans. Advanced chess players might appreciate these sites, but the beginner might as well keep away from this place or he will never learn the basics of the game. Rule of thumb is to learn to play chess first, then worry about its origins later. Much later.

Jon Edwards’ Chess Site. This person from Princeton (student? faculty? Staff?—I don’t know) was the 10th United States Correspondence Chess Champion. Translated, that means he plays the game with an opponent via the U.S. Postal Service. Gives him lots of time to think about his last move. His website is full of interesting chess-related stuff, including lessons. View his links to chess stamps and you might be able to answer the quizzes over at Mr. Fixit Online . This is the place to view some fancy chess sets, too. Collectors might enjoy a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings chess set. Easterners might like a Yankee vs. Mets board and players. Also, Edwards reviews chess books.

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~ by IndianaDunesPoet on January 18, 2005.

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