In popular American culture, chess seems to have been replaced by television, social media, video games, and other quick and easy entertainment. All of which can lead to isolation. As a culture, we need pastimes to connect us within couples, families, and in our individual lives beyond drinking, eating, social media, and general routine. Rather than binge watching or zoning out, chess is for those who are looking for ways to connect. Deep down we all crave to engage with each other directly, develop our critical thinking skills, and live a more mindful life. Moving pieces is tactile, intimate, and engaging. And there is also something innately enticing about the game.
Besides its glamorous history, chess players have a reputation for being smart, savvy, and clever. What’s sexier than that? There’s a movement in society towards learning, science, and curiosity — and the game of chess, referred to as a “sleeping giant”, is undergoing a revitalization.
The chess awakening has swept me up as well. I’ve been chess obsessed for years. I study the game every morning for at least an hour, have taken countless lessons, play with grandmasters and hustlers at every opportunity, own sets for every occasion, and am a US Chess Federation Coach and teacher. My wife Rebecca has serious game as well. Chess has really become a lifestyle for us; it’s much more than simply a game we play. It’s one of the ways we connect as a couple. We almost always have a travel set with us, and when we have some free time we incorporate chess into what we’re doing. We play on the beach, on a long train ride up the coast, at a cafe, and our favorite is bar hopping between chess matches. We’ll grab a drink at one bar, finish a game, and then jump to the next bar for a rematch and another cocktail. If you go to Bar Marmont late afternoon you might see us moving pieces with one hand and a cocktail in the other.
By the way, we play at home too. And Rebecca’s come up with an entire chess culinary menu, determining that there are certain foods that work best with chess. They’re usually a little decadent, require no utensils, and have a great drink pairing. She’s brought out duck rillettes on rye crackers with a glass of Bordeaux and also made a caviar dip once with creme fraiche, mini blinis, and a glass of Champagne. Warm cookies with tea work pretty well too. And we eat it all while playing on Bogart’s actual chess table that he had flipped over. Only it’s no longer cracked in two.