Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Speaking Of Chess

I received an e-mail from an old college chum today. Though I haven't seen Chris in person for at least 20 years, he includes me in a list of friends and relatives to whom he sends out jokes, canonical lists and family updates over the internet.

Our mutual interest in chess brought us together as freshmen. We played dozens of games during our next four years of college at Central Michigan. After graduation, when we were footloose and unencumbered with responsibility, we occasionally challenged the patzers in Michigan's Upper Peninsula at chess tourneys there.

Eventually, we went our own ways. For a little while, we played correspondence chess by U.S. mail. Computers back then were dinosaurs compared to today. And chess-playing programs were crude and played poorly. When computer chess-playing programs improved, we stopped playing by mail. Cheating would be too tempting, I think.

I still have the second chess-playing computer game I bought. The packaging brags that it carried a United States Chess Federation of 1771, roughly where Chris and I were at (over 1800 is a Class A player, over 2000 is an expert, over 2200 is a master, over 2600 is a grandmaster, etc.)

Not that long after I bought that, somebody gave me a free shareware program simply called Ed’s Chess that performed even better. In fact, I had an extremely difficult time trying to beat it. That was when I started losing interest. Who wants to play a game where machines dominate?

My friend also has not played seriously in 25 years, he says. But recently he installed the Chessmaster 9000 on his computer. Here are his comments:

"I played 3 or 4 games in which I started out okay, but somewhere around the middle of each game things started to get challenging and then in a rush I would find myself having my ass handed to me. I then took a moment to look at the instructions and see what I could do about various settings and so on, and discovered the computer opponent I had been playing against was set for a 2879 rating level."

A 2879 rating level is roughly the equivalent of an international grandmaster in chess. It would be like an ordinary golfer taking on Tiger Woods, or an everyday tennis player suddenly finding himself playing against Roger Federer.

Shows you how far computers and artificial intelligence has come since we played in college. Remember movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer", which describes the a quest to find the next champion caliber chess player in the United States? Who would have thought to search in the computer games section of the local Best Buy.


Blogger Peter said...

Hi Dave, I must admit I never attained a very high level of skill at chess, but if you played against someone of about the same level as yourself it is a great game.
I did in fact win my very first game against a player who was much better than I, as I found out in our second game, his excuse was that I had him so confused by the moves I made in game 1 that he was trying to protect himself from my moves, which he thought were a part of a stratergy!!!!!

12:37 AM  
Blogger Kacey said...

You went to Central Michigan? My former son-in-law went there a couple of years before you. He was a nice guy before he started sleeping around while my darling daughter was expecting #3 boy. Since the boys have all grown up and are brilliant, I like him again. Funny though, he produced one boy who is amazing with computer games and had three years in computer engineering before he went into the Air Force. It really must be Central Michigan that is spreading the seeds of greatness. Poor Big Dave ---- you haven't found out that you can't compete retroactively.

1:48 PM  
Blogger molly said...

I could never learn chess & I've tried, but even so 'Searching for Bobby Fischer' is my all time favorite movie.
It's scary, though, isn't it? With computers, you barely need to leave the house to interact with the world.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

My level at chess would be 0; I never had the patience to learn.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I used to love to play chess, haven't played for years. I'm a fan of just about any kind of strategy game really.

9:09 PM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

One of my best friends and I were such fierce Chess competitors that it almost ended our friendship. Instead, we gave up play each other. ~ jb///

9:22 PM  
Anonymous bonnie said...

Our family still plays chess on a board. We do use a chess clock, however, which brings out the SPARTAN in more than a few of us.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

I've played a little chess but I am totally a beginner.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Great post and oh, so true....technology has changed everything....making us all feel so much less intelligent.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:48 AM  

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