Why I Love Chess
by Bill Wall

Chess is such a fascinating game with endless possibilities. I love chess because you can play it anywhere, create new ideas in the opening, causes me to think and think ahead, is never boring, and it's always a test of just me and my opponent. I've played in over 100 rated tournaments and have met dozens of grandmasters, including Paul Keres (went over a couple of my chess games), Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Walter Browne (beating him in tennis), Igor Ivanov (stayed at my house a few times), Joel Benjamin, Arnold Denker (borrowed my chess clock, then couldn't remember where he put it), Eduard Gufeld (had to put a fire out in his hotel one time), Boris Spassky, Larry Christensen, Isaac Kashdan (invited me to my first rated tournament), Viktor Korchnoi, Mikhail Tal, Ian Rogers and others. I have traveled around the world and have played chess all over the US as well as Okinawa, Guam Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Germany, UAE, Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii and other places. I've written dozens of chess books (see book covers) and perhaps thousands of articles in the past 45 years. I've edited several chess magazines in North Carolina and Ohio and have edited my own Off the Wall chess magazine. It's pretty neat to see some of my chess games in Chess Informant, Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, Chess Life, and other magazines. Online chess databases, such as chessgames.com, have a few of my games in their database. Someone in Italy had written a Wikipedia chess article on Bill Wall, but the Wiki police removed it after several years of being part of the Wikipedia. Apparently I was not notable enough to be part of Wikipedia.

I've been recording my chess games since 1969, and have played over 48,000 games over the past 47 years. I've played in almost all the major chess tournaments, including the American Open, the National Open, the US Open, the World Open, the World Class Championship, US Booster championship, and lots of other tournaments. I have played chess in the Air Force from 1970 to 1995 and played in multiple Air Force championships and Andrews AFB. I've won base championships in Texas, California, Ohio, Alabama, Thailand, Guam, and Okinawa. I have a chess library of about 10,000 chess books and magazines. I have my own chess web page and have been writing on the web since 1990. I've been President of the North Carolina Chess Federation and the Ohio Chess Association, along with other offices. I've been President of the Dayton Chess Club and the Palo Alto Chess Club, each with over 100 members, and have done many related things in chess as seen by my chess bio. I sponsored the Bobby Fischer display at the World Chess Hall of Fame. And like Bobby Fischer said, “You can only get good at chess if you love the game.”

To me, chess is entertaining and it has so much neat history in its 1,500 years of being around. I love to find chess trivia and history that I never knew before. I pour over newspapers, magazines, and books to look for a chess reference or trivia article. I am not a formal historian, and I write for the entertainment value. If something needs correcting, I will correct it, but I don't spend a lot of time looking for first hand stories unless I can find the reference easy enough. I've visited the Cleveland Public library and its large chess library and was a member for many years the San Francisco Mechanics' Institute with its large chess library. Now, with almost everything on line, I search the Internet daily for old or new sources of chess books, magazines, and articles. As I research more into chess, I have discovered that chess is a deeper sport and pastime than I ever thought possible.

Chess has not been a big financial drain on me. It is cheap enough and I have won my fair share of tournaments and tournament prizes. I buy a few chess books at tournaments, buy a few chess sets that I like, buy some chess software, and I am set. I don't charge for chess lessons, and have had a few good students, such as Jordy Mont-Reynaud, who became America's youngest master after I coached him. My chess book royalties are small, and I usually will buy some more chess books and magazines. But now, at age 65, I have filled up my house with too much chess stuff, and my wife would like to see some of it go. She has her own collection of Gone With the Wind items.

I like chess because you can play it at any time, day or night, on the Internet. On the Internet, I have played opponents from all 50 states and over 120 countries in the past 20 years. On the Internet, I have played at IECC, IECG, FICS, chess.com, lichess, Chess Mania, Microsoft Zone (even before it was Microsoft), and others.

I like the unusual openings in chess. I've written on unusual openings and play unusual openings and gambits as much as possible. I love to experiment with the Jerome Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 3.Bxf7) online. I read Rick Kennedy's Jerome Gambit blog every day to get more ideas and send in my games for publication when I have a good game (win or lose). I've probably played this opening over 200 times on the Internet with great success. I also like the Smith-Morra Gambit, the Wing Gambit, and lots of King's Gambits.

I love to teach chess, but there are less and less interested people in chess. The kids will stay with it until they find other occupations and the adults just get more and more frustrated if they don't see improvement or still lose all the time. I used to give school simuls of 20-40 boards, but that is harder to do nowadays. I am also a tennis coach and have tried to combine teaching chess, then tennis, to my students. I've found that the kids give up on chess and play more tennis. Almost all my tennis students have given up on chess and went on to make the high school tennis team instead. And that's okay. They still can't beat me in chess or tennis. Adult co-workers will play during lunch hour until after a few months of losing all the time, and then they give up. I can't convince them to study chess and buy some chess books to get better. I've given away all my miniature chess books over the years to friends and recommended that they buy some of my chess books on eBay or Amazon, but that rarely happens.

I am not sure if chess helps me with my profession. I am a systems and security engineer with several degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering. I was a military officer for 25 years. I may or may not have had the patience and discipline in my occupation as I do in my chess. However, there are still a lot of benefits in chess that link good learning practices with chess. I did not become a pure chess addict at the expense of my education or occupation.

One good thing about chess is that it can be played on Kindles, ipads, iphones and Androids. That certainly helped me when I was rushed to the emergency room of a hospital for diabetes in 2013. I was confined to bed with IVs for 4 days, but because I had chess on my Kindle, it was never boring. I never turned on the TV once. When I go to hospital clinics or dentist offices and have to wait for over half-hour or more, I just pull out my Kindle and play chess games on it or go over grandmaster games, or pull up a chess ending and study that.

When I flew 6 hour missions as a crew member of a KC-135 tanker in Southeast Asia from 1971 to 1974, I always had a magnetic or pocket chess set with me. I was never bored and played chess or taught another crew member to play chess. I am probably the only person who played chess while refueling an SR-71 Blackbird in flight. Chess probably even saved my life once. I was playing chess inside my aircraft instead of outside at 2 am when sappers attacked the base and went right past my plane. Unlike others in the military, I did not take drugs or get drunk. I played chess at USOs or on the flightline or after a combat mission during my early years.

I used to love going to chess clubs and meeting different personalities in chess. Strong players seemed to have their own clique and associated with other strong players. Weaker players tended to play the same other weaker players all the time together. I've directed hundreds of chess tournaments and must have brought in dozens of new players into the US Chess Federation (USCF). I was once Volunteer of the Year for the USCF. I did not mind the politics of chess and was always trying to organize and make chess events fun. I had gambit tournaments, odds tournaments, blitz chess, giveaway chess, pre-chess, bughouse chess, etc. I've started local clubs almost everywhere I have gone that did not have a chess club.

My wife doesn't like chess as much as I do. I've been married 39 years, and at least she hasn't left me because I play chess. She says she is a chess widow. But she does like to travel, and if I go to a chess tournament, she follows along and does shopping. I've played in several Space Coast Opens in Florida, and even though I could drive back and forth to the event from my house, my wife likes to get a hotel on the beach and hang out while I play chess. In the past, we have had chess picnics with chess club members, chess dinners, chess awards events, etc, and my wife always helps out. She just thinks my chess buddies are too weird for her. And now her new main concern is that I have filled up the house with too many chess books, sets, and trophies (now packed up in the attic). She doesn't mind an occasional kid or someone coming over for chess lessons, and wants to know ahead of time so she can have a clean house (as if a chess player is going to notice if she vacuumed or not).

I like chess because it is a game of skill and not luck. And except for the highest levels of chess, you don't need a good memory. Chess is based on pattern recognition, experience and intuition. I am no good at cards and dice is based on luck. I don't think I have a good memory, so chess fits right in with what I can do.

Chess can be played at any age. I started playing chess seriously at 18 and am still going strong at age 65. I could have learned and played at an earlier age, but there were too many other games and sports growing up in the 1960s to act as diversions. It was because of a chance encounter with the Tacoma Chess Club (I walked in there to get out of a rain storm) that I got hooked. I lost almost all my games with other members of the club until I bought a chess book on openings. That turned the games around, and I started winning. That's always fun in chess. Chess was easy and fun to learn with chess books when I started playing chess. It must be easier with computers nowadays.

Although I like sports, chess requires minimal physical activity. I have played tennis and baseball and injuries have set me out of action in those sports for months with bad knees, feet, or shoulders. But with chess, I can sit in my favorite chair and play online or with a friend over at my house.

I like the rating system in chess. It seems pretty accurate. When I lived in Silicon Valley and played in chess tournaments almost every week, my rating maxed out at 2200. As I played less and less chess and got older over the years, my rating slipped to Class A, as it should be. The young kids are getting stronger. I may be playing them when they were rated 1800, but in a few months, these kids were over 2000 and going upward. As I get older, it is harder to calculate as fast, and I get into too much time pressure. After a tournament, I run all my chess games through a strong engine and see how much I missed that I might not have missed as a younger player. And I do like the fact that the chess engines are very strong so that I can put all my games in since 1969 and watch it analyze stuff I would have never seen. Going over past games, I resigned in positions I was winning, or took a draw in a game that might have won or lost according to the chess endgame tablebases, or won games that could have gone the other way. Every week I am surprised at what I missed that the engines find as I analyze my past 45,000 games, which I cannot complete in my lifetime.

I missed my chance to meet Bobby Fischer, but my wife got lucky. In 1991, I was asked to deliver all the back issues of Inside Chess to Fischer via his sister, Joan Targ. I gave that task to my wife, since we knew the Targs (my uncle in Palo Alto was a teacher to Targ's kids). I went to play a chess tournament at LERA in Sunnyvale, and she visited Joan Targ to drop off the chess magazines. Looks like Bobby was there, but my wife did not recognize him and she did not stay. It was only later that she said the balding, slightly overweight guy she saw in the news was Fischer. That's what I love about chess — the personalities, good or bad, and the genius to play grandmaster chess. I'll never get there, but I appreciate the hard work and skill that grandmasters put into the game.

I have met lots of friends through chess, and that's the most important thing. Thanks to Thomas Katsampes, Enis Santos, Tim Weil, Frederick Rhine, Willy Iclicki, Jordy, Nathan Foo, Bill Behnen, Vinay Bhat, Roger Blaine, Tony Mantia, Craig Neilson, Dennis Davidson, Al Lipkin, John Donaldson, Tim Trogdon, Bobby Dudley, Ken Greer, Peter McKone, George Heuston, Boyd Holsapple, Leopold Lacrimosa, Bobby Moore, Kerry Lawless, Bob Lovegren, Charles Meidinger, Sam Millimaci, Larry Paxton, Eric Schiller, Gary Tuttle, Paul Waldowski, Wanda, Stewart Williams, Rick Kennedy, Erik, Frank Brady, Geoff Chandler, Hemy Kasimov, Marek, Bob Basalla, and Joe Zachary. I wouldn't know any of you if I hadn't played chess.

Return to Main Page

Please report broken or duplicate links to the Webmaster.

Official Website
Copyright 2016 by William D. Wall
All Rights Reserved

Bill Wall