Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chess Mannerisms

Tournament experiences this past year offered an interesting course in the sociology of chess in the Northeast. Frankly, I’m unimpressed with the mannerisms of chess players under the age of 35 and aghast at the ill mannered temperaments of a growing percentage of parents watching their children compete, and the pressure they put on their children to win at all costs.

Now, all is not bad in the gentleman’s game of chess (and yes, women are inclusive in this expression); however, there is a growing callousness in the mannerisms department among the chess community. So I thought I’d post a little something here to help put into place some basic mannerisms while playing in a chess tournament.

A) Parents: Ensure that your child is where they need to be and have everything they need to play. Give them the necessary directions to find you. Kiss or hug your child and wish them good luck, then LEAVE. Demonstrate your trust in them by allowing them some independence and more importantly removing any undue stress on your child to perform under the scrutiny of your eyes.

B) Hygiene: Take a shower, use deodorant…be clean. Wash your hands after visiting the rest rooms; those could be my pieces you’re touching.

C) Don’t eat crunchy foods while playing.

D) Shut off the damn cell phones; why in the world do you need a phone at a chess board?!

E) At the beginning of your game, look straight into your opponent’s eye and offer a firm handshake, smiling is OK, and say something along the lines of “Here’s to a good game.” But please, don’t wish your opponent good luck! That’s a bunch of garbage, why would you wish me luck against you? You’re trying to win the game.

F) Don’t slam your pieces down on the board unless you are adamant about displacing your good nature with an heir of arrogance and disrespect for your opponent. This is not an intimidation tactic!

G) In competitive chess, the need to say “check” is unnecessary but not impolite to do so. Give your opponent the credit of knowing they are under check and dispense with the traditional “check” remarks in game. Saying “check” is to alert your opponent that their King is under direct attack; most chess players with an established rating above class “E” will know they are under “check.”

H) After the game, regardless of win, lose or draw, offer a handshake of congratulations or accepted defeat graciously. If you are the winner, never say, “Good game.” The loser may not think so. Instead, say something like, “Hard fought game.” Or “Good luck at your next game.”

I) Keep post game discussions minimal until you leave the immediate area.

J) Be mindful of your fellow players around you.

And there you have it: Smitty’s Chess Mannerisms. For the sake of good chess and to maintain its aura of “royal decency”, try practicing these little tidbits. You’d be surprised how far it goes and how good you’ll feel about yourself.