In honor of the defeat of Gary Kasparov by IBM’s Deep Blue in a game of chess on February 10, 1996.
- When and how did you learn to play chess?
I received a board when I was in second grade, and my dad taught me the basic rules. In addition to the regular game pieces, this set came with cardboard squares on which the pieces were drawn, captions reminding you of the pieces’ names, and little arrows to tell you how the pieces were allowed to move. They were training pieces, and you put them on the board instead of the real pieces until you didn’t need them anymore. I was fascinated, but that was before I learned how much I suck at chess.
- How is your chess game?
Yeah, I pretty much suck. I kind of do respectably against people who can play but have never studied, and I can throw around words like “fork” and “skewer” and even employ the tactics sometimes, or at least accidentally make it look like I’m employing them. But I don’t think far enough in advance, so anyone who looks three moves ahead can put lickings on me.
- When did you last find yourself in a stalemate?
Grace’s birthday is a couple of weeks after mine. When the village idiots texted me to ask when I wanted to get together for mine, I said I wanted to celebrate mine after we celebrated Grace’s. See, I didn’t want to find myself in a conversation about politics or the media, and I know Reid can’t help himself. I thought I might be okay by some time in February, and Grace’s birthday is near the end of January. I thought we could do my birthday in February, after Grace’s birthday at the end of the month, without my having to admit the real reason for my request. But the idiots interpreted my request to mean I’d prefer to have Grace’s birthday THAT WEEKEND and mine after that, which wasn’t nearly enough of a delay. So I got what I asked for but not what I wanted. But then Penny had to call it off because she was ill. So we’re doing Grace’s birthday this weekend and mine sometime after. Stalemate at first, but then kind of a win for me.
- A gambit is a chess opening in which a player sacrifices a piece in hopes of gaining an advantageous position. What was one of your recent, real-world gambits?
My life is pretty non-competitive, so it’s tough to think of something, but without getting into details I’m probably not at liberty to share, my landlord had a plumbing issue in the upstairs part of the house (I rent the bottom, a separate living space). There was some dripping through my ceiling, so it looked like it might be pretty bad. When I got him to come over and take a look at the situation, I admited a certain uncomfortable truth to him, making myself about as vulnerable as I’ve ever been in our relationship of 18 years or so. I didn’t do this for any kind of upper hand, but I did think that making myself vulnerable this way would make it more likely that there would be some kind of merciful resolution to a super awkward situation. He surprised me by admitting a similar uncomfortable truth, and I think we’re communicating better now, and on better terms, than we ever have.
- Which piece on the chessboard is most like you, and why?
I think my mind is a knight, able to take weird turns and to leap over over players, but the rest of me is a pawn, slow and steady, sometimes saving the game near the end, but more often being taken out of the game so others can have their fun.