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Couples that share a hobby together have what it takes to make it. Couples that share a competitive sport, well...that's another story. Whether it's tennis, golf, or chess, someone's going home mad. Especially if one is better than the other and they are paired together. Because of the preconcieved notion that chess is a man's game, most often the weaker player is the skirt. Since it's a male dominated sport, not too many dad's in the past have taken it upon themselves to teach their daughters chess. Fortunately, that's changing now. However, it doesn't change the fact that most adult women chess player today play because of a spouse or boyfriend. I'm certainly not saying all women play because of a man, but a large number of them do.

Take me for example. I learned to play chess when I was about 10. Dad taught me. I didn't have much interest in it so I didn't continue. Some eleven years later I meet and fall in love with a chess player. I still didn't have much interest. The first few years passed without incident. Then he started to get serious about it. Every Friday night and every Saturday I would lose him. Doesn't make for any interesting dates. Just me, the ice cream, and a video. Sundays were reserved for golf. So that was my weekend. For all intents and purposes, I was single from Friday at 8 PM until Sunday at 5 or 6PM.

So begins the fighting. "Why don't you stay home with me...I'm competing with 32 plastic pieces...blah, blah, blah." Then the counter arguement..."You could learn to play chess or golf and come with me, you know." That went on for awhile. The thought of playing one of the two sports that made me a weekend widow was very distasteful. I decided that I hated golf more than I hated chess, so I started to go hang out with him on Saturdays. For about six hours I'd sit and watch him play (or read, or sleep, or whatever). Hey, at least we were together. Over a period of a year I got more and more interested. I actually started to watch. Then I started to skittle at home. The more familiar people got with me, the more they started to bug me to join the USCF. I went with him to the USATE tourney and decided when I got home I'd join.

It wasn't long before we were paired together in a swiss. Oh boy was that fun. I have no idea what I was thinking! He was over 600 points higher than me but I still got pissed of when he won. This is the man that won't even let our daughter win an occassional Disney Charade game, and he would let me win? I don't think so.
A great deal of time has passed and I've learned a lot about keeping peace. There are certain do's and don'ts that just have to be followed. If you don't, someone's asking to sleep on the couch (and it's usually the man!). So here they are:

1. Do NOT let the man teach you. Plain and simple. He'll get frusterated and you'll get frusterated. Seek an outside source. Sure, it may seem lovey and huggie, roses and peaches for the guy to teach his beloved skirt, but take it from an expert, it's BAD MOJO.

2. Don't let him watch you play. Make an understanding before you play in any tournaments. Having the guy stand over your shoulder is nerve wracking. It doesn't matter if it's other people (and there will be people watching you..."aw...isn't that cute...a little girl is playing a man's game"). If, for any reason, you screw up and he's watching, it WILL be his fault. Even if you drop your queen with mate seven moves after he goes about his business, it will STILL be his fault. Avoid this pitfall altogether. Put barbed wire around your playing area.

3. When paired, accept the fact that one of you is going to lose. That's hard. Nothing says if you are in a losing position you can't be a little passive aggressive, but don't be openly aggressive. The third time I was paired with my man, we got down to an endgame. He queened and it was about mate in three. I had eight minutes on my clock and it was my move. Well, I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of mating me and I certainly wasn't going to resign (never show weakness). I simply sat back, crossed my arms over my chest, and refused to move. Eight minutes later my flag fell and he called it. Losing felt bad, but losing on MY terms made it better.

4. Accept the fact that the openings you play against one another are chosen for shear annoyance factor. I hate the French. I hate the French. I hate the French. Did I happen to mention I hate the French??! What do you think my man plays whenever we are paired together? The French. That proves that he considers it an important game. If he didn't, he's probably play The Fred. You know, one of those "I can make the worst possible moves and you STILL couldn't win" openings. So how do I respond? The way any person who hates the French would. I exchange. French players really hate that. The whole point is, you gotta be ready to accept the fact that he's probably going to play the one opening you hate. Your job is to learn the one response to that opening that HE hates.

5. If you lose any game badly, go away quickly. Find a nice quiet spot away from your man BEFORE you decide to punch that hole in the wall. When one guy loses badly, the other guys slap him on the back and say "Hey, that's tough, but you REALLY blew it. Better luck next time.". Watch how it changes when YOU lose: "Oh, sweetheart, it was really a tough game. He was rated so much higher than you were. How about a hug. Let's go get some ice cream to make you feel better." See the difference? They don't mean to sound condescending. It's not a conscious thing. They're just trying to keep the peace and to comfort. Sometimes it's nice to be coddled, but wait until that initial fury passes before you allow it. Otherwise that hole you earmarked for the wall might be in his head.

6. Be ready for the emotional impact when you do, in fact, beat him. Your guy could be the most supportive partner in the world, but when it comes to chess, it's still a man's world. Beating him at chess is like being able to take apart a car engine and put it back together better than him. It's humbling for a man to lose to a woman, but no matter how much they protest, it's even worse for a man to lose to HIS woman. Eventually he'll get over it, but just remember not to jump up and down on the chair yelling "He got beaten by a little girl! He's a wimp!" That'll probably make for some cold evenings.

The indication that you have a strong chess relationship, is his responses to your games in analysis. When I saw a tactic and executed it, it's usually met with "God, that is so sexy! You're turning me on here." To normal people (and chess players are not normal) that's pretty weird. But it's important for a guy to be supportive to his skirt without being patronizing. It's equally important for a guy to be supportive with mistakes, not brutal. "What were you thinking? That was the dumbest move on the whole board" should probably be re-stated as, "That probably wasn't the best move. Here's what I would have done, personally". It may seem like a tough world out there for the skirt player, but it's probably even a tougher world for the skirt's man. One bad move in chess can cost you the game. One bad move in the chess relationship could cost him sex for a month. In retrospect, that's probably a far worse fate than dropping a queen with mate. Hmmm....on second thought, dropping your queen with mate is pretty bad.