Is there anyone left who plays chess? My Dad taught me when I was very young, and like many things that I enjoy, I was rubbish at it and still am. I recently downloaded a computer chess program and have been playing it (badly). The computer opponent (who I will call "Marla") is a right bitch and always surprises me with these devastatingly sophisticated moves, while my plans are so transparent I can almost hear Marla's mocking laughter. My queen generally gets taken after 5 minutes.
However, I have recently discovered Wikipedia and have been reading all about the different chess tactics that exist. They all sound like utensils you'd use during a barbeque. Apparently there's forks, pins, skewers, but also some strange sounding ones - Zugzwang is my favourite - it sounds like a bad German 80s pop group. Having never used any of these tactics before I can now see why I always get beaten! Apparently there have also been chess fashions over the years - so a few hundred years ago the "done thing" was to take control of the middle of the board, then all the good players got bored with that and invented something called "hypermodernism" which means leaving the middle open but controlling it from afar. I think.
There are also different ways of playing chess (blitz chess - fast, bullet chess - even faster, chessboxing - where you alternate boxing and chess). And there are the "infamous" immortal, evergreen and opera games to read about. I am particularly fascinated by the description of very bad opening moves, which include Grob's Opening (sounds like a Bruce La Bruce film) and also Fool's Mate and Scholar's Mate (games which last about 3 seconds due to the ineptitude of one of the players). Apparently, sometimes very good chess players start off by making one of the bad opening moves, just to show off, as they then go on to beat you - fortunately Marla hasn't had that sort of arrogance programmed into her.
And if Chess ever starts to get boring, there are all the weird variants - Alice (in Wonderland) Chess, which uses two boards, Suicide Chess, Monster Chess and Dark Chess being some of the more intriguing-sounding. And there are various "fairy chess pieces" including the Princess, the Zebra and the Nightrider. Who knew?
Wikipedia is now like my 4th favourite website ever. Or something.