Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chess and the Fairer Sex

I can count beyond my hands and feet male players who have left chess when they developed a special relationship with a particular female. I don't want to sound sexist but I have not known of the reverse to happen. And I'm not going to name names for fear of getting beaten up or something.

And I have to admit that I have a deal with my wife to not play chess during the summer on the weekends when the weather is good enough to go to the beach. I hear stories about divorces because of chess but I don't buy it, there is probably more to each story. I doubt that the divorce rate of chess players is higher than say hunters or poker players.

There seems to be three major phases in a chessplayer's life where giving up OTB has a high probability.

First, late in high school about the Junior year when college takes on a big piece of life and in addition chessplayers seem to figure out how to deal with girls around that age.

Next is when a player begins to have a family; I retired from OTB chess for 19 years while my kids were growing up. It took a wife getting her master's degree and my kids not wanting to spend time with their crazy old man, to get me back to OTB. I wish there was a way to reach out to people in this group, because I do feel there is an opportunity to bring them back if we knew how to find them.

Then I have seen many boomers drop out of chess when they see their skills slipping, getting beaten up too may times by these highly coached wunderkind, or they begin a new relationship. In fact the USCF is concerned that boomers are dropping out at an accelerating rate while youth is not replacing this drop off, causing a slowly increasing decline in the demographics that is the biggest threat to OTB.

If I could transfer any experience into other chess players it would be the exhilaration one has playing well in a several day tournament, class prize for me, when round after round you sit across the board and ask yourself "How am I going to beat this guy?" And some how it's the last round and you are playing for the 1st prize and you win. I wish everyone experiences this at least once in their life.

In an attempt to discourage people considering stopping OTB chess all together, I try and persuade them to go into "weekend warrior mode" -- set the goal to play in a few tournaments a year out of shape. Budgeting time so that you can participate weekly or routinely during a week night which might help to keep skills up. Personally I guess I'm in a type of this mode, attending the Quincy Chess Club every Tuesday night, when work doesn't interfere.

Contrary to the above phenomenon, there was a time when the Quincy Chess Club actually attracted a wave of women who were looking for eligible bachelors. These women were older successful professionals apparently networked, and somehow got the idea to visit the club. These chess groupies seemed odd, but when you think about it, it made better sense to look for single guys in a chess club rather than a bar. You would probably find some pretty bright people at a chess club, albeit some socially challenged. In fact a couple of the women did find Mr right there, and chess subsequently lost those guys. So lookout for older chess groupies they could be harmful to your game.

What are you feeling about chess and women?

Any ideas to save the boomers? Or anything else?

Please Comment Mike Griffin 05/13/2008

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