Friday, August 4, 2006

The exquisite torture in playing chess

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

Xylothism is a disease and psychological disorder derived from the Greek words “xylon” for wood and “othism” for pushing. A xylothist is a derogatory description of a chess player gone wrong.

Too much of anything is never good for anybody. Addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling are serious social problems that destroyed the lives of a great number of people, as is the addiction to chess. Addiction varies in different stages with some, suffering more than others.

Bobby Fischer was so enamored by the game at the age of six that he never ‘grew up’. He never developed the social skills necessary to cope with society in general and lived in a world of his own.

SANITARIUM. Former World Champion Wilhem Steinitz ended up in a sanitarium, while Paul Morphy, who is considered as one of the greatest players of all time, stopped playing at an early age as the game was ‘eating’ his mental and emotional faculties. American Champion Harry Nelson Pillsbury was a broken man who tried to throw himself from the fourth story window of a Philadelphia hospital where he was being treated.

I have observed, at first hand, families destroyed by the game and great fortune lost because of it.

Here are some quotations from the book by Andy Soltis, “Chess to enjoy.”

The American Chess Bulletin described the game’s vicious nature aptly: “Chess is erroneously described as a gentle pastime.

It combines the Spanish Inquisition with a puritan witch-baiting, preserving the most exquisite tortures of each. Pulling out an enemy’s toenail with red-hot pincers is childlike in comparison with winning a pawn from him on the 10th move and forcing him, for want of that pawn, to resign on the 87th.”

This malady was accurately diagnosed by H.G. Wells and, though perhaps comical, it is true: “The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the most absorbing of occupations, the least satisfying of desires, an aimless excrescence on life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us say, a promising politician, a rising artist, that you wish to destroy. Daggers or bombs are archaic, clumsy and unreliable — but teach him, inoculate him with chess!”

Listen to a 17th century minister recounts the evils of the game “,It is a great time waster. How many precious hours have I profusely spent in this game! O, chess, I will be avenged for the loss of my time! It hath not done with me when I have done with it. It has followed me into my study, into my pulpit. When I have been praying or preaching I have (in my thoughts) been playing chess!”

With the advent of the Internet, chess addiction has increased by leaps and bounds. There are dozens of websites where you can play 24 hours a day against opponents all over the world.

I must confess that I am, to a certain degree, addicted to internet chess having played more than 15,000 games in about four years. Lately, though, my time has been devoted to online poker—Hold ‘em, Omaha and the Seven-Card Stud. By the way, Hold ‘em poker is a rage in the Philippines and is now played in several spots in Cebu.

TANJAY WINNERS. As part of the fiesta celebration of Tanjay, Negros Oriental, an open chess tournament was sponsored by US-based National Master Zaldy Ybañez, a nuclear engineer and former varsity player of Cebu Institute Technology and the only player who defeated GM Tigran Petrosian in a simultaneous exhibition in Cebu, back in the late 70s.

It was also organized by Engr. Bobby Tabaloc of the King and Pawns Chess Club of Tanjay City in coordination with Tanjay Mayor Balthazar Salma.

The winners are (champion) Eden Diano, (second) Pipo Moreno, (third) Hamed Nouri, (fourth) Richard Natividad, (fifth) Voltaire Sevillano and (sixth) Anthony Makiniano.

The Cebuanos, who went to Tanjay, were sponsored by former Cebu Executives and Proffessionals Association president Jun Olis, who is from Tanjay.

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