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You didn't ask me, but I'll answer anyway:

is the ICC (internet chess club), you can download the free software, and play for free (just log on as 'guest'), you won't be rated or save games etc. unless you pay. I paid when I first starting playing, and decided it wasn't worth it. After downloading the software, you might want to change the board design/color, pieces etc. and get used to using your mouse to move a piece or pawn, but it is fun..don't get addicted.


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Hi, Kat!

I like playing postcard chess on the 'Net, although the real-time stuff is awesome because you can get a game (usually some kind of speed chess) anytime with people all over the world.

But, with postcard you can fit it into your schedule. To answer, it can be done at When you get there, you'll see a link for email chess. The directions are very easy. I have a lot of fun with that, been doing it for years.

I really wondered if it would help my face-to-face play, and it seems to have done so; I just started playing in-the-flesh with a buddy on a regular basis during the week...


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I didn't ask Larry [Abrams] the exact date, but it was in the early 1970s [that at her request, he taught Rand how to play chess].

Maybe Rand changed her mind on this issue.

I looked up her "An Open Letter to Boris Spassky" and will type in excerpts. It appeared in The Ayn Rand Letter dated September 11, 1972. If she learned to play, I assume it was after she'd written this.

--- Excerpts

[All emphases are in the original.]

Dear Comrade Spassky:

I have been watching with great interest your world chess championship match with Bobby Fischer. I am not a chess enthusiast or even a player, and know only the rudiments of the game. I am a novelist-philosopher by profession.

But I watched some of your games [...] and found them to be a fascinating demonstration of the enormous complexity of thought and planning required of a chess player - a demonstration of how many considerations he has to bear in mind, how many factors to integrate, how many contingencies to be prepared for, how far ahead to see and plan. It was obvious that you and your opponent had to have an unusual intellectual capacity.

Then I was struck by the realization that the game itself and the players' exercise of mental virtuosity are made possible by the metaphysical absolutism of the reality with which they deal. The game is ruled by the Law of Identity and its corollary, the Law of Causality. Each piece is what it is: a queen is a queen, a bishop is a bishop - and the actions each can perform are determined by its nature: a queen can [move thus], a bishop cannot; [...]; etc. Their identities and the rules of their movements are immutable - and this enables the player's mind to devise a complex, long-range strategy, so that the game depends on nothing but the power of his (and his opponent's) ingenuity.

This led me to some questions that I should like to ask you.

1. Would you be able to play if, at a crucial moment [...] an unknown, arbitrary power suddenly changed the rules of the game in his favor [...]? Yet out in the living world, this is the law of your country -- and this is the condition in which your countrymen are expected, not to play, but to live.

2. Would you be able to play if the rules of chess were updated to conform to a dialectic reality [...]? [....]

3. [...] if you had to play by teamwork [...] with a team that determined your every move by vote? You would not be able to continue? Yet in the living world, this is the theoretical ideal of your country [...].

4. [...] if the cumbersome mechanism of teamwork were streamlined, and your moves were dictated simply by a man standing behind you, with a gun pressed to your back [...]? [....]

5. [...] if the rules of the game were splintered, and you played by "proletarian" rules while your opponent played by "bourgeois" rules? Would you say that such "polyrulism" is more preposterous than polylogism? Yet in the living world [...].

6. [...] if the rules of the game remained as they are at present, with one exception: that the pawns were declared to be the most valuable and non-expendable pieces (since they may symbolize the masses) which had to be protected at the price of sacrificing the more efficacious pieces (the individuals)? You might claim a draw on the answer to this one - since it is not only your country, but the whole living world that accepts this sort of rule in morality.

7. Would you care to play, if the rules of the game remained unchanged, but the distribution of rewards were altered in accordance with egalitarian principles: [...]? Would you and your opponent try playing not to win, but to lose? What would this do to your mind?

You do not have to answer me, Comrade. You are not free to speak or even to think of such questions - and I know the answers. No, you would not be able to play under any of the conditions listed above. It is to escape this category of phenomena that you fled into the world of chess.

Oh yes, Comrade, chess is an escape - an escape from reality. It is an "out," a kind of "make-work" for a man of higher than average intelligence who was afraid to live, but could not leave his mind unemployed and devoted it to a placebo - thus surrendering to others the living world he had rejected as too hard to understand.

Please do not take this to mean that I object to games as such: games are an important part of man's life, they provide a necessary rest, and chess may do so for men who live under the constant pressure of purposeful work. Besides, some games - such as sports contests, for instance - offer us an opportunity to see certain human skills developed to a level of perfection. But what would you think of a world champion runner who, in real life, moved about in a wheelchair? Or of a champion high jumper who crawled about on all fours? You, the chess professionals, are taken as exponents of the most precious of human skills: intellectual power - yet that power deserts you beyond the confines of the sixty-four squares of a chessboard, leaving you confused, anxious, and helplessly unfocused. Because, you see, the chessboard is not a training ground, but a substitute for reality.

A gifted, precocious youth often finds himself bewildered by the world: it is people that he cannot understand, it is their inexplicable, contradictory, messy behavior that frightens him. The enemy he rightly senses, but does not choose to fight, is human irrationality. He withdraws, gives up, and runs, looking for some sanctuary where his mind would be appreciated - and he falls into the booby trap of chess.


[....] So one can understand what attracts you to chess: you believe that you have found a world in which all irrelevant obstacles have been eliminated, and nothing matters but the pure, triumphant exercise of your mind's power. But have you, Comrade?

Unlike algebra, chess does not represent the abstraction - the basic pattern - of mental effort; it represents the opposite: it focuses mental effort on a set of concretes, and demands such complex calculations that a mind has no room for anything else. By creating an illusion of action and struggle, chess reduces the professional player's mind to an uncritical, unvaluing passivity toward life. Chess removes the motor of intellectual effort - the question "What for?" - and leaves a somewhat frightening phenomenon: intellectual effort devoid of purpose.

If - for any number of reasons, psychological or existential - a man comes to believe that the living world is closed to him [...], then chess becomes his antidote, the means of drugging his own rebellious mind that refuses fully to believe it and to stand still. This, Comrade, is the reason why chess has always been so popular in your country [...] - and why there have not been many American masters. You see, in this country, men are still free to act.

Because the rulers of your country have proclaimed this championship match to be an ideological issue [...], I am rooting for Bobby to win - and so are all my friends. The reason why this match has aroused an unprecedented interest in our country is the longstanding frustration and indignation of the American people at your country's policy of attacks, provocations, and hooligan insolence - and at our own government's overtolerant, overcourteous patience. There is a widespread desire in our country to see Soviet Russia beaten in any way, shape or form, and - since we are all sick and tired of the global clashes among the faceless, anonymous masses of collectives - the almost medieval drama of two individual knights fighting the battle of good against evil, appeals to us symbolically. (But this, of course, is only a symbol; you are not necessarily the voluntary defender of evil - for all we know, you might be as much its victim as the rest of the world.)

Bobby Fischer's behavior, however, mars the symbolism -- but it is a clear example of the clash between a chess expert's mind, and reality. [....] he brings to the real world the very evil that made him escape it: irrationality. [....] [he] is not a great, confident mind, but a tragically helpless victim, torn by acute anxiety and, perhaps, by a sense of treason to what might have been a great potential.

But, you may wish to say, the principles of reason are not applicable beyond the limit of a chessboard, they are merely a human invention, they are impotent against the chaos outside, they have no chance in the real world. If this were true, none of us would have survived nor even been born, because the human species would have perished long ago. If, under irrational rules [...], men could not even play a game, how could they live? It is not reason, but irrationality that is a human invention - or, rather, a default.

Nature (reality) is just as absolutist as chess, and her rules (laws) are just as immutable (more so) - but her rules and their applications are much, much more complex, and have to be discovered by man. [....] A long time ago, the grandmaster of all grandmasters gave us the basic principles of the method by which one discovers the rules of nature and of life. His name was Aristotle.

Would you have wanted to escape into chess, if you lived in a society based on Aristotelian principles? [....] Such a social system could not be devised, you say? But it was devised, and it came close to full existence - only, the mentalities whose level was playing jacks or craps, the men with the gun and their witch doctors, did not want mankind to know it. It was called Capitalism.

But on this issue, Comrade, you may claim a draw: your country does not know the meaning of that word - and, today, most people in our country do not know it, either.


[signed] Ayn Rand

--- End Excerpts


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  • 2 months later...

~~ For those who are actually interested, to whatever small degree, in chess, :D/ specifically 'puzzles' therein (similar to 'mate in 2', but, these are not really exactly quite like that)... well as short mystery stories... :-k

...especially if both involve Sherlock Holmes... :-({|=

...may I introduce you to: =D>

~~ His bio there explains enough for his background, expertise, and orientation to popularizing understanding of paradoxes and logical analysis, generally; but his biblio has at least 2 books that are quite germane to this thread. The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes which involve analyzing chess-board situations which, usually, have only a couple pieces there, and deducing what the earlier moves HAD to have discover who the liar was in a given story-situation. Sometimes the deduction requires determining a 'missing piece'! Smullyan explains his answers later, of course. These deductions he calls 'retrograde analysis;' such having to do with what MUST have occurred earlier. Even Mr. Spock would say "Fascinating." :idea:

~~ The other book is similar (though, without Sherly) in its simple (HA!) puzzles, The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights.

~~ Should you find these even mildly interesting, the rest of his 'popular' biblio you will also find at least as interesting. The titles of most show the nature of the subject therein. Sometimes he even implicitly 'argues' a philosophical position via the nature of his criticism of other ones while analyzing 'liars paradox,' etc. --- However, beware his official 'academic' books; heavy going, there. Brush up on Principia Mathematica or forget it. %?

~~ Anyhoo, check out just 1 of the 2 specified; you'll definitely find it...unique. =D>



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