My father is a wise man. He once told me that when you milk a cow, you need to have a stool and a milk pail. And while having the right tools is essential, it’s even more important to understand the basics. He said if you put your stool under the bull instead of the cow, you’ll never get any milk. In fact, there’s a high likelihood you’ll get kicked in the face instead. Like I said, my father is a wise man.
When I first learned to play guitar, I played with friends who already knew the basics. They taught me things like how to string the guitar, how to tune it, and how to play a few simple chords. Later, I learned music theory on my own from books that I checked out (you guessed it) from the library. Knowing the difference between Lydian and Mixolydian modes is important, but if you can’t tune your guitar, you’ll never be able to play On the Road Again.
So when I started playing chess, I knew I needed some expert help. I had played chess a few times, but badly. In fact, until I started assisting with chess programs at the North Branch Library, I didn’t know how woefully ignorant I was. I didn’t know that the white pieces always started the game. I didn’t know how to do the castling move. It turns out that sometimes I was even setting up the chess board backwards! In other words, I was trying to get milk from a bull with a guitar that was out of tune. How’s that for mixed metaphors?
Luckily for me (and for you), there is the Monday night Chess Club at the North Branch Library. Every Monday evening from 6:00-9:00, you can learn to play chess with folks who really know what they’re doing. Under the expert and affable leadership of Ben Kemna, the Chess Club welcomes all ages and all skill levels. And it’s free. What a deal!
The library also hosts special chess events from time to time, like a recent “simul” with Women’s International Master Dr. Alexey Root. She played a group of 10 people simultaneously, rotating new players in as she won games. She offered a copy of her new book Prepare With Chess Strategy to anyone who could beat her, but after 20 games, no one did. Though I didn’t learn any new moves from this frenetic exhibition, I discovered that chess really can be exciting to watch.
My advice: give chess a chance. Once you’ve learned the basics and beyond from the friendly folks at the Monday night Chess Club, check out some books from the library and see how far you can take it. Below are just a few titles that can help you go from making a fool out of yourself (like me) to making all the right moves: