"Why are you always so into chess?" [#1]

Stories about intense chess games, chicken quesadillas, and my chess obsession.

"Why are you always so into chess?" [#1]

I find myself staring deep into the position on the board in front of me. I’m playing with the white pieces, and while I have a convincing attack, I’m pretty low on time. Scratch that – I’m very low on time. I only have forty-five seconds left.

Frantically, I calculate my potential moves and my opponent’s possible responses. If I move my knight there, he’ll end up taking my rook in a few moves. And if I move my queen next to his bishop, then he’ll launch a devastating attack of his own. Maybe if I move there… oh, that might work!

Ah, shoot. I have thirty-two seconds left. I force myself to play the move I was thinking about and I frantically slam the clock. I look up at my opponent, who seems stunned. I lock eyes with him, and in that moment I know I’ve won.

Both of us know that I’m completely winning. But he's going to do everything in his power to slow me down just enough so that I lose on time.

He plays a move, and I flinch. It's not a great move, but I have to make sure I don’t make a mistake. I calculate. Twenty-six seconds. I make my move, accidentally knocking over my opponent’s black pawn, which I have to reposition before I hit the clock. And before I know it, he fires back with another tricky move. It’s his last resort. He'll have nothing left once I figure out how to deal with it.

I stare at the board in a trance, completely unaware of my immediate surroundings. Well, I’ve got to do something, right? Ten seconds. Well, I guess it’s now or never.

Now the board devolves into a whirlwind of pieces. I’m playing moves as fast as I can, and of course my opponent is doing the same.

Finally, I find checkmate. I slam my white knight down onto a critical square and triumphantly slap the clock. One second left.

My opponent looks down for a second and confirms that it’s a checkmate by shaking my outstretched hand. We exchange a lighthearted laugh, and proceed to reset the chessboard to its starting position.

I sit up in my chair. I casually grab a bite of my chicken quesadilla, suddenly noticing the noise and chaos occurring in the cafeteria. There’s the popular group at another table, chattering about some new social media app, and the sports group is discussing their opinions about the Dallas Cowboys.

I shake my head at the absurdity of the game that I just played. I definitely could have managed my time a bit better, especially since I’ve been playing every day at lunch for the past few weeks. It’s whatever – at least I won.

Soon, one of my best friends comes up to our table with a plate loaded high with quesadillas. He sits down next to me, and asks, “Nathan, why are you always so into chess?”

Well, I learned how to play chess in kindergarten. I’ve played chess for over 10 years.

I’ve played in 50+ official tournaments and I’ve played over 5000 online games. I’ve gone to many US Chess national tournaments, several of which were held in the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, one of the 30 largest hotels in the world. On chess.com, the most popular chess website in the world, I’ve reached a maximum blitz rating of 2010, which ranks above 99% of players on the site.

So... you could say that I’m pretty into chess.

There are three main reasons why I love chess so much / why I’m so into chess:

  1. You can play chess regardless of your gender, age, nationality, socio-economic status, disability, or whatever else. On the board, the only thing that matters is your playing ability, ingenuity, and calculation.
  2. Chess is definitely a competitive game – there’s no denying that. Competing against others in a purely strategic game is really, really fun. Even if you aren’t the same skill level as another person, you can play “odds games” to even the playing field.
  3. Chess has a host of positive cognitive benefits. Studies have shown that chess players exhibit increased concentration, better problem-solving skills, increased memory, etc. Who doesn’t love a sport that also improves your mind?

There are probably a few other reasons, but those are the ones that naturally come to mind. I’m likely going to talk about chess a lot more in future articles, so stay tuned.

I finish my chicken quesadilla and look up to the wall-mounted clock. Oh wow – it’s already 12:45?! Looks like I have to head to my next class. As I stand up, I glance at my opponent, who’s sitting at a different part of the table. We lock eyes again – and the smile in his eyes tells me that we’re definitely going to play another game of chess tomorrow.

Thanks for reading this article! Hope you enjoyed it.