George Carter
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Playing Strangers At Chess

| Sunday 15th October, 2023

I took a chess set into my town the other day and set up at a pavement cafe.

I was hoping that strangers would be glad to play me, but it seems my hometown isn’t great for chess or for stepping out of comfort zones (I already knew that, that’s why I have half a plan to get out of here!)

The guy at the phone shop next door came out for a nicotine fix and was eyeing up the board…

“Time for a game?” I asked.

He hesitated, but then came over and sat down.

We played a good game… on chess.com you’re always matched with someone around the same level as you, and you can see what level they are (though I generally choose not to).

Across the board you have no idea until you’re playing. Then you feel the level your opponent is at. It was the same in the Aikido classes I did in my late teens and early twenties. They never used coloured belts because they said you’d know someone’s grade after you had engaged them for a while.

I was royally panned by Maharshi, the phone guy. But he was good natured about it, and even gave me pointers (only after I had made a mistake, of course!)

My lessons from the day:

  1. You can set up a chess set and play strangers.
  2. See if you can take a piece that has put you in check before trying to escape by other means.

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