December 30, 2010

How to watch a chess game


Many of my friends ask sometimes about how do I train, how is the game being played, what should they do to understand what's happening on the board and so on (I'm talking about my non-chess friends of course).
While looking on internet for one of my future's posts, I discovered an amusing article, written many years ago, which might be an answer to their questions:)

Robert Charles Benchley (September 15, 1889 – November 21, 1945) was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor.
Robert Benchley wrote, directed and acted in many short satirical films. He revealed how to watch a game in a 1923 article from THE HUMORIST:

We will suppose that you have found two people playing chess
     somewhere. They probably will neither hear nor see you as
     you come upon them, so you can stand directly behind the one
     who is defending the south goal without fear of detection.

     At first you may think that they are both dead, but a
     mirror held to the lips of the nearest contestant will
     probably show moisture. Soon you will observe a slight
     twitching of the eyelid or a moistening of the lips and
     then, like a greatly retarded moving picture of a person
     passing the salt, one of the players will lift a chessman
     from one spot on the board and place it on another spot.

     It would be best not to stand too close to the board at this
     time, as you are likely to be trampled in the excitement.
     The players may even forget themselves to the point of
     shifting their feet or changing the hands on which they are
     resting their foreheads. Almost anything is liable to happen.

     When the commotion has died down a little, it will be safe
     for you to walk round and stand behind the other player and
     wait there for the next move. You will perhaps find it
     difficult at first to keep your attention on the board. This
     can be accomplished by means of several little optical tricks.

     For instance, if you look at the black and white squares
     on the board very hard for a very long time, they will
     appear to jump about and change places. The black squares
     will rise from the board about a quarter of an inch and
     slightly overlap the white ones. Then, if you change focus
     suddenly, the white squares will do the same thing to the
     black ones.

     And finally, after doing this until someone asks you what
     you are looking cross-eyed for, if you will shut your eyes
     tight, you will see an exact reproduction of the chess-board
     done in pink and green, in your mind's eye. By this time,
     the players will be almost ready for another move.
The complete article can be found in the book: "Love conqueres all" by Robert Benchley, a collection of 63 short humor.

This volume (see picture) collects 63 excellent gems from his early professional work, when Benchley’s enthusiasm and style were approaching their peak.


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