Nothing could be more Ludditish, in my opinion, than playing a game of chess with a human being. It is a quiet, soulful experience that exercises the mind and emotions and requires deep, not glib, thought.
I have been playing chess on Tuesday evenings at a small nearby club where two or three grown ups appear while a teacher teaches a group of kids including my son. The games aren’t timed and I haven’t been recording the moves but a friend there records his moves and after the game we go through it with the teacher, an International Master, who amazes us with what he can see so quickly. This post game analysis is very useful and it is something I intend to do more.
Once a month I also play in a mini Swiss tournament of seven rounds at another club 30 minutes away. Each game has a fixed time control of 15 minutes a side and games are not recorded. The tournament has a mix of players ranging from 6yr old children to an 80 plus year old man who is very good and I would estimate the fields strength to range from 700 to 2000. I have never run out of time but I have come close and I find that the fifteen minute time limit allows some deeper thought but not as much as I would like. Also my time planning isn’t good; I sometimes rush when I shouldn’t and then spend my time trying to get out of a messy situation. Again my allocation of concentration is something I will work on.
Yesterday I went to a new club that has opened up nearby. I went there because, according to its website, it has an ongoing tournament where players play one game a week for the duration of a school term. Yesterday, however, was the week before the tournament started so there were fewer people; there was the organiser, me and another adult, my son and about six other kids. The tournament’s time control of 1hr was specifically set up to bridge the gap between the 15 minute games that are ubiquitous for children and the 2hr + games of serious, usually adult, players. I played two great games against the organiser (lost both) and a couple of recorded games against an improving player. I plan to go back next week and join their tournament.
I hope to play more people, close to my level or higher, more often and under longer time controls. The fact that I am playing a human means that I treat the games with great respect. This in turn helps me concentrate and play a better game that I remember more clearly. The rewards of losing or winning are higher too and blunders, tactical errors, poor positional play and bad strategy all become more obvious under the emotional prism that is live play and become more memorable.
It is my contention that you can learn as much from a close game with a human as you can with 100 internet games – especially if you go through it afterwards.