People, particularly chess players themselves, utter the stupidest things about chess and about chess players. Here are a number of of our favorite misconceptions about the royal game. Some of these sayings are unquestionably off-target, some of them are uninformed opinion, and some of them are arguments that may or may not be valid.
1) Chess is hard to learn.
Chess may not be the easiest game to pick up, but it is far from the most prohibitive. You have to know the movements of the six pieces, where the piece with the least value, the Pawn, has the most complex moves. Then you have to learn the rules about attacking and defending the King, including castling. Then there are a few about games where not one nor the other player wins. One side of this myth is legitimate it is difficult, very difficult, to learn to play chess splendidly. One player in a hundred achieves supremacy.
2) You have to be smart to play chess.
There is some relationship between chess ability and general intelligence. Minimum smarts are required. Cats and dogs will never learn the basics; no one has tried teaching dolphins and chimpanzees. Chess does involve, after all, using numerous sophisticated sections of the mind as efficiently as possible. People from all walks of life have fun playing chess, many attaining mastery. Some very smart people enjoy playing but never go beyond beginner.
3) Chess is for nerds.
In fact, this isn’t a myth, since chess is for everybody. It is for dweebs, oddballs, eggheads, and boffins, as usually as it is for anyone else. People who need to call other people unpleasant names should better say, ‘chess is only for nerds’, but this is decidedly false. Even if it was on target, so what? Smart, clumsy, offbeat people have made more contributions to the advancement of humanity than have the rest. If they want to play chess, that’s their concern
4) Computers play chess better than people.
In 2006, the best computers play chess better than 99.99% of people, but are evenly matched in games against the best humans. If, as some experts think, computers are attaining 20 – 30 rating points per year, the time will soon come when humans have no chance against the best machines. It should not be overlooked that computers are always trained by squads of human specialists who encode programs in them in psychological areas like opening repertoire. Getting rid of this help would eliminate their excellence.
5) Chess is a sport.
Here we run the risk of upsetting the many outstanding chess organizers who have exhausted years trying to prevail upon the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that chess should be included as an Olympic sport. Hoisting light pieces of lumber or clicking rapidly on a computer monitor is not physically demanding activity. As any number of photos from recent high level chess events will show, chess players don’t always portray a lean, shipshape, muscular profile.
6) Chess isn’t a sport.
Here we attempt to make reparation with those very same organizers who almost convinced the IOC that chess is a sport. Chess has been admitted as a medal sport for the 2006 Asian Games. A competition between two extraordinary chess professionals is replete with tension, where good nerves can make the difference between a victor and a loser. Grandmasters have been known to lose a lot of weight during the course of a month-long match.
7) Women can’t play chess as well as men.
To date it is true that women have not performed as well as men in chess events. There are numerous conceivable reasons for this. One may be that male players are often expert at making female players feel ill at ease at chess events. The Polgar sisters have gone a long way to persuade the chess world that women can play very well. Perhaps one day we will discover that women can even play better than men. No one really knows.