The game of kings isn’t really getting much of a royal reception in the 21st century – in fact, the last time I touched a physical chessboard and moved the pieces around in a game was two years ago, back when I was serving my national service.
Checkers, which is somewhat chess-like, was the first board game I played in my life; but even then, I felt it was too simple.
It was after I got introduced to chess that I felt a sense of completeness.
I did not really care much for other more popular board games among my peers like Monopoly and The Game of Life. While there are good points to playing both, I just felt that they were promoting materialistic ambitions.
Fast forward to the age of video games. More often than not, I have always had some sort of chess game installed in my computer.
While games like Chessmaster offered the traditional two dimensional view, it is games like Battle Chess that started to fully animate the chess experience. There’s just something magical about seeing your chess pieces come alive and ‘killing’ each other on screen. This was a time way before the Harry Potter movies started doing the same.
Chess in the local scene however, has insofar stayed under the radar away from the mainstream audiences; although I’m sure that pockets of chess communities exist in Singapore.
However, that sentiment has changed since last week.
Why I Love Chess
First of all, the entire medieval element to the game. Thanks to the influence of chess, I took an interest in history, and later on, pretty much built my online identity based on knights.
Picture this, I used to have a blog in my early teenage years which was completely written in old English!
Chess to me is also something which has influenced my personality greatly. A quiet, thinking game that teaches you to plan your moves ahead, while still having the spatial awareness to adapt are all traits of which I am able to identify with and live by until today.
Another important point I learnt was that different pieces have their own strengths and weakness. Knowing that since young has taught me that this is also same for people. No one person is similar to another – all possessing unique sets of strengths and weaknesses. However, with a great strategy and tactics, the team will be able to trounce opponents as a collective.
Speaking of strategy and tactics, I feel that chess is essentially the precursor to real-time strategy video games – you know, those insanely popular Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Starcraft, Age of Empires, and the Civilizations games.
There was simply no adjustment period or learning curve I could scale at my own pace, so I needed to understand and take to these games immediately. Thankfully, I got to be quite good at them.
A Parent-Child Chess Resurgence
In the age of smartphones, game consoles, and computers, board games have largely taken a back seat.
It is not uncommon to see in public, children who are constantly staring into an iPad and playing mobile games. Even then, it is still heartening to read in the papers that there has been a push for the game to fuel renewed interest. The Straits Times ran two such stories on 9th June.
The first article is about how there is a growing number of primary school students getting together for a game of chess in the library at the Singapore Sports Hub.
It tells about how a lively band of chess-loving parents, since June last year, have created an almost spontaneous chess club for their children. What started out in an office space eventually found a new home at the Singapore Sports Hub library.
That very location used to be where the Singapore Chess Federation held their Raising Awareness for Chess series where members of the public can spectate, or even participate, in a unofficial competitive setting – all in the name of spreading the good game of Chess.
Unfortunately though, the series prematurely ended, and there has been no such events at that venue ever since April 2015. It is with the recommendation of Singapore Chess Federation president Leonard Lau that the venue has been given second chance for chess.
Since the group is still small, they do not have much of an online presence as of yet, and mainly contact each other through WhatsApp.
If you do wish to seek them out, they are at that library every Sunday – that is, if you’re game enough to take on some feisty little chess wizards.
Adults Are Also Getting In On The Fun
The second chess article covered a story about how a single individual’s passion for the game had blossomed into a community of players right in the heart of the Central Business District.
Meet Mr Bradley Loh, a financial risk director who moved here from Australia just under two years ago. Ask anyone who has migrated to another country and they will tell you that making friends is paramount to survival – and for a fulfilling life to say the least.
For Bradley, he simply had the wish to find other avid chess players to engage in a game with after a tedious day of work.
As of now, the number of members in his Singapore Chess Meetup group have grown to about 422 members; and the numbers have been on the rise with newcomers visiting daily after the article was published.
However, the number of members online may not be representative of the actual numbers who have played at their home turf, located at The Cube in Asia Square Tower. This is because the weekly meet-up that is held on Wednesday nights is actually open to anyone, and everyone.
They invite all kinds of players to join, regardless of whether you have joined their Facebook group or not. Passersby fancying a game of chess before heading home after work are also more than welcome.
Another website which you can look at if you are interested in the local chess scene is SGChess. There, you can find articles and videos of ranked local chess players and schools, as well as the play-by-play of their matches.
Unfortunately, I am unavailable on Wednesday nights and cannot join Bradley and his knights for a round or two.
Perhaps I should get around to rearranging my schedule.