Getting Involved in Chess

One of the greatest things about chess is there are so many ways to get involved. Here are some ways people regularly take up chess as a lifelong hobby:

  1. They want to grow their rating through tournament play
  2. They appreciate chess books for reading
  3. Some people like to collect chess books but rarely read them
  4. Many find teaching chess to be a lot of fun
  5. Collecting higher end chess sets is quite common
  6. Becoming a tournament director to help at local events
  7. Becoming a US Chess federation state delegate to help shape the US Chess Rules Book
  8. Running for state level office within their state’s US Chess affiliate
  9. A parent whose child became interested in chess
  10. Chess journalism

For me personally, I equally enjoy numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 10. Most people who are involved in chess do so at many different levels. A good friend of mine, John Warth, runs the Chess Club of Southern Indiana. He takes photographs of all the club members that turn out quite well, shares them on social media, and has a very positive attitude about chess overall. Running this club, and collecting chess books and luxury chess sets, are his way of engaging in chess on a meaningful level.

Growing your Rating
The best way to grow your rating is to identify weaknesses in your play. You can hire a coach, read chess books, obtain chess software, or simply go over your own games. Regardless of the path you choose, and specific resources for improvement are suggested in various articles throughout this blog, growing your rating is a lifelong pursuit. You will have ups and downs but, in the end, your mind will stay sharp, you will make many friends, and you’ll form long lasting memories.

Reading Books vs. Collecting Books
There is a big debate that comes up from time to time on the Chess Book Collector’s Facebook Page. Essentially, there are people who likes to collect many books (thousands even) about chess and there are people who read chess books cover to cover. While I fall into the camp of readers, many people gain a lot of gratification from simply owning books, especially hard to find books, and peruse them from time to time. In any case, the reason I love chess books is because they are so full of chess lore. Neat stories about why player made one move over another or how a no body gets introduced to chess and then one day became world champion. The stories are endless and show how hard, but worthwhile, chess can be.

Chess Teaching
Teaching can be a lot of fun, especially when teaching kids. Nearly every chess coach has treasured stories from their days as a chess coach. One story I often share with people is that my name is John Anthony Ryan Velez but I go by “Ryan.” So, for 2 years, if I wore jeans to class I would introduce myself to the kids as “Ryan.” But, if I wore dress pants then I would insist I was Ryan’s brother “John.” The kids would always try to get me to give it away but I would just get my driver’s license out and prove it to them. If I were John, then I’d show them the license says John. But, if I were Ryan, I’d show them the signature in fact says “Ryan.” In the end, they all knew I was fibbing, but it made the teaching so much fun and it was a long term running joke with them. Even today, some of those students still see me out in the world and inquire.

Luxury Chess Sets
Many of my friends collect luxury chess sets and they enjoy setting them up and exploring chess games the old masters played years and years ago. While I cannot entirely explain why, wooden chess sets, especially very nice ones, make you feel more connected to chess history than other types of chess sets. I find them highly appropriate when studying chess by book. Some of my favorite sets include the Dubrovnik sets, the old Drueke Board designs, and Green Leather Casket box for my pieces. However, there are all kinds of wooden sets, different designs and colors of boards, and boxes of many different styles. The pricing on these types of sets, boards, and boxes, varies tremendously giving a large variety of selection. I know with several of my friends, we prefer to get boards that have a different look that the pieces so that the pieces stand out better which is especially important if you intend to use these sets for playing (as opposed to just for yourself).

Becoming a Tournament Director
A lot of people become tournament directors because they are parents. Parents who TD events often do so to help perpetuate local events so their kids can play chess in meaningful competitions. While it is indeed a bit of work, it is a lot of fun. To become a tournament director, you must obtain a copy of the US Chess Rules Book. The lowest level of tournament director only requires you to have access to a copy of the book; however, I highly recommend reading it.

There are also two extremely fun books that supplement to the US Chess Rules Book which are My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut and Just Law. Just Law will teach you how to be a more effective tournament director on how to answer frequently asked questions at tournaments. My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut will teach you about how absurd circumstances can arise during tournaments, usually comical, and what happened in those situations.

Chess Congress and State Affiliates
If you want to get involved at political levels, every state has its own state affiliate and those affiliates appoint delegates who serve in what I jokingly call “Chess Congress.” While the politics of chess can give people some headaches, they are important to making rules, keeping chess relevant, and are a great way to help improve chess. I have been the Kentucky Chess Association’s VP, Webmaster, and currently Scholastic coordinator. It is a lot of work but tons of fun.

Being a Chess Parent
The most common way to unwittingly become sucked into the wonderful world of chess is to become a parent whose kids, eventually, finds their way into a chess club. If you have gotten this far, you know this blog is all about helping you be the best chess parent you can be. My column in American Chess Magazine is also specifically geared toward helping parents understand the world of chess.

Chess Journalism
While this is more niche, it is true that if there are people who like to read about chess then there are people who like to write about chess. There are chess blogs, articles on various chess websites, the US Chess magazine called Chess Life and Chess Life for Kids, and New in Chess. Chess Life also recently released a new podcast which is called Cover Stories with Chess Life. If you want to get involved with chess writing, I recommend starting on Facebook then extending into a blog. You never know where your talents will end up after that!

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