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Say Chess!

Updated on February 27, 2011

Chess sets

For Intellectual Giants

We so love the game of chess. But we can't say it loves us back, at least not the way we want it. It is a relentless challenger, and like an elusive lover, she keeps us fascinated and on our toes. Do you know that chess is the oldest skill game in the world? It is rich in history providing us a window of the past, a cross section of medieval life with its many ceremonies, grandeur, and wars. Chess was played many centuries ago in China, India, and Persia. No one really knows for sure in which country it originated. Then, in the eighth century, armies of Arabs known as Moors invaded Persia. The Moors learned chess from the Persians. When the Moors later invaded Spain, the soldiers brought the game of chess with them. Soon the Spanish were playing chess too. From Spain, chess quickly spread throughout all of Europe.

Europeans gave chess pieces the names we know today; they probably had trouble pronouncing and spelling the Persian names, so they modernized them to reflect the way they lived. Today, the names certainly aren’t modern but a thousand years ago they represented the very way in which both ordinary people and persons of rank lived their lives.Most chess masters become masters by learning the game of chess at an early age. Seldom does a player become a master after learning the game later in life. There are a few exceptions. However, most strong masters began at a very early age.

How true is it that great chess players are seen as being among the intellectual giants of the planet? Could it be because no other game involves the simultaneous use of strategy, mathematics, and risk-analysis. But, how do we explain the fact that many of these game gods started rather very young?

Here are some of these great minds and how they sum up chess in their own words...

Chess is a fairy tale of 1001 blunders -Saviely Tartkower a beautiful mistress. - Larsen life - Bobby Fischer like life - Boris Spassky everything - art, science, and sport. - Karpov 99 percent tactics. - Teichmann really 99 percent calculation - Soltis mental torture. - Kasparov

... is ruthless: you've got to be prepared to kill people. - Nigel Short as much a mystery as women - Purdy

Chess was a game we played seriously in our home when i was young. Our family almost produced a chess champion, but sadly, he passed away before he could compete in the national levels. I remember many nights of competition right in our living room, with challengers lining up just to play against my brother. No one could beat him. As destiny would have it, i married a real chess nut. Unless i find time to indulge him with a game or two, poor thing has no one to challenge. But, with a little research, he found chess online and is a happy camper. Lately too, our 5 year old granddaughter has taken to the game. At 3 years of age, she learned to identify the names of every piece, to our delight. At age 5, she is already playing "Chess with Fritz and Chester", a program in the computer her grandpa discovered, which is for 8 year olds. We don't know if she will keep up her interest. We hope she does.

Two of the World's Best

Young Kasparov
Young Kasparov

Garry Kasparov

At six years old, young Garri Weinstein taught himself how to play chess from watching his relatives solve chess puzzles in a newspaper. His immense natural talent was soon realized and he was sent off to study chess at the Mikhail Botvinnik Soviet chess school. After his father's untimely death, the twelve year old chess prodigy soon adopted the Russian-sounding name Garry Kasparov (Kas-PARE-off) a reference to his mother's Armenian maiden name, Kasparian.

Kasparov won the Soviet Junior Championship, held in Tbilisi in 1976. The next several years were spent marking his rise as a world-class talent. He became World Junior Champion in 1980, the same year he earned the grandmaster title. He won the Moscow Interzonal in 1982 to qualify for the Candidates Matches, where he scored victories against Alexander Beliavsky, Victor Korchnoi and Vasily Smyslov to emerge as the official challenger to World Champion Anatoli Karpov. While their first match, in 1984, was ordered stopped by FIDE (Karpov was leading 5-3), Garry Kasparov eventually emerged victorious in the 1985 rematch, becoming the youngest world champion ever at the age of 22.

Kasparov has successfully defended his FIDE title against several attempts by Karpov in the late 80's, Nigel Short (under the auspices of the PCA) in 1993, and Viswanthan Anand in 1995. In 1997, the world champion faced defeat against Deep BLue- a computer in a promotional match sponsored by IBM. Three years later, in 2000, Kasparov finally lost his long-held title to his former student, Vladimir Kramnik. In 2004, Garry Kasparov became the Russian Champion with a stunning +5 score in the Moscow Superfinal.

On March 10, 2005, immediately after winning his seventh Linares tournament, Garry Kasparov announced his retirement from professional chess, after thirty years of play and twenty years at the top of the ratings list. He currently is devoted to Russian politics.

Robert James Fisher

Fischer at the age of 17 playing world champion Mikhail Tal in Leipzig.
Fischer at the age of 17 playing world champion Mikhail Tal in Leipzig.

Bobby Fisher

Robert James Fischer was born on March 9, 1943, in Chicago. By the age of 14, Bobby Fischer won the US Championship, becoming the youngest player ever to win that title. In 1958, at the age of 15, he became the youngest international grandmaster in history. He won the US Championship eight times in eight attempts, including, at the age of 20, setting a record with a perfect 11-0 score. In 1971 he set another record, when he won the quarter-final and semi-final matches for the world championship by identical scores of 6-0 against Mark Taunanov and Bent Larsen respectively. Then, when he won against Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian in the first game of the final candidate match, he had thus set a record of 20 consecutive wins (without draws) at the highest level of competition. By 1972 he achieved a FIDE rating of 2785, making him, at that time, the highest rated player in history.

In Reykjavik, 1972, Fischer became the 11th World Chess Champion by defeating the defending champion, Boris Spassky in what is often referred to as "The Match of the Century." The final score was 12½ to 8½. In 1975, FIDE refused to meet Fischer's conditions for a World Championship match with Anatoli Karpov, and Fischer consequently refused to play. FIDE therefore awarded the title of World Champion to Karpov. Fischer then vanished from the public eye for twenty years. He resurfaced in 1992 to play a match against his old rival Spassky in Yugoslavia, which he won, 10 to 5 (with 15 draws). This action violated a U.N. sanction, and Fischer evaded authorities for twelve years until July 13, 2004, when he was arrested in Japan. On March 22, 2005, he was granted Icelandic citizenship and finally freed from Japan. He died of renal failure in Iceland in 2008.

Bobby Beats the Russian

The Young Champs

Former world champion Jose Capablanca began to play chess at the age of four. He wrote that he learned chess by watching his father play when he had just passed his fourth birthday. He even beat his father in his first game at age four.

Former world champion Boris Spassky learned the game in the Urals at the age of five during World War II.

Former world woman champion Nona Gaprindashvili learned at age five after watching her five chess-playing brothers.

Former world champion Vasily Smyslov learned the game at six by studying chess books in his father's library.

Bent Larsen learned the moves at age six.

Former world champion Alexander Alekhine learned chess at age seven by his mother, an heiress of an industrial fortune.

Former world champion Tigran Petrosian learned the moves at age eight. When his parents died when he was 16, he found consolation in chess and soon began to win tournaments.

Former world champion Mikhail Tal became interested in chess at age eight after watching the game played by patients in the waiting room of his father, a doctor specializing in internal disorders. At age 10 he joined the Riga Palace of Young Pioneers.

Former world champion Max Euwe learned at age nine and was taught by his parents.

Former world champion Emanuel Lasker began to play at the age of 11. His older brother taught him the moves of chess.

Former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik learned the game at age 12.

Former world champion Wilhelm Steinitz learned how to play chess at age 12 from school friends.

Six-time U.S. champion Walter Browne learned the game at 13 after joining the Manhattan Chess Club. By age 20, he had the Grandmaster title.

And the list goes on.


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    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you Anthea!

    • Anthea Carson profile image

      Anthea Carson 7 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Awesome post

    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 7 years ago from Arizona

      What a wonderful hub!

      I learned to play chess at a young age. We'd play during the lunch hour in grade school.

      Bobby Fischer was the world champion and we all were proud young Americans..playing chess.

      I've bought and given away his book, "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess", at least 10 times. Published by Xerox, it uses a method called "programmed instruction".

      There's no need for a chess board. Each lesson is illustrated once followed by three illustrations to test your memory. The lessons build one upon the last until the final lesson...a three move checkmate.

      I guarantee you'll see it....and Luv the book!

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 8 years ago from USA

      Kasparov is a Personality all the way!

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 8 years ago from Hawaii

      He is truly awesome and a champ isn't he Vera? My husband is a real big fan as well, that's why chess is in the heart of our home!

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 8 years ago from USA

      Kasparov just had a chess rematch with Karpov to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first Karpov vs Kasparov world chess championship match in 1984.

      It was held in Valencia, Spain on September 21-24 (2009)

      Gary Kasparov won again!

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 8 years ago from Hawaii

      The fact that Reuven knows how to play the game is encouraging. What's sad is, not too many children are exposed to it in this age. Nevertheless, let's hope one day, your son will get really excited about it. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 8 years ago from USA

      Reuven plays chess from time to time with his Grandma or his friends, also on-line with others. But for him it's just another board game, I don't think he is more than average in it. Still, it is very benefiting that he knows how to play it.

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 8 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks ReuVera! The Russians produce great Chess players. Kasparov is one of our idols, and we admire him as well with his political views. Does you son still play?

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 8 years ago from USA

      I enjoyed reading it. Another great hub! I only know how to move the figures and I used to play with my son when he was little, then he over smarted me as he was getting older and I was not the proper partner for him any more, LOL.

      When I was a child, those names that you've mentioned in your hub were more known to us (in Russia) than the names of Hollywood actors. I have a deep respect to Garry Kasparov, both for what he did as a chess champion and also for his political activities.

      Your husband is so right when he says that playing chess keeps your mind active which in its turn prevents aging problems! He is Great!

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 8 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks SunSeven. People who love and understand the game of chess are really a unique breed. I can tell, you are one. Thanks for your visit and sweet comment.

    • SunSeven profile image

      SunSeven 8 years ago from Singapore / India

      Great hub. I just loved it. Chess is one of my favorite game. Its been a long time since I've commented on anyone's hub. I just couldn't resist letting you know how much I appreciate this one. :)

      Best Regards

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 8 years ago from Hawaii

      Dohn: It can be quite intense, and if you don't to think too much, it can give you a big headache. But, my husband keeps at it so he say's he doesn't develop dementia! Thanks for the visit and if you decide to play, let us know.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      What an awesome hub on Chess! I know a little bit about it and embarrassed to say that I haven't played it head on just yet...But I am learning and want to learn! This is definitely encouraging, however. Thanks!