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  • Glenn Julich

Like many of you, I've read a number of books about Bobby Fischer.  I've seen all the documentaries and movies about him.  And, like you, I've appreciated his genius; and have felt sadness for him as his mental illness took over his life.

Every once in a while I come across a clip of him on YouTube that I had not seen before.  Somehow, this little gem of a video with him and Bob Hope escaped me for decades.  

Those of you that know the backstory of his games in Iceland against Boris Spassky will appreciate this clip.  Bob Hope jokes about his complaints of the noisy audience, the cameras, not showing up, showing up late, and practically every other oddity Bobby exhibited in Iceland.

Take a look:

In this video, we get to see the fun side of Bobby Fischer.  Was it real?  Was he enjoying himself?  I hope so.

What do you think?

. . . . . . .

If you are new to the world of Chess and Bobby Fischer, treat yourself to a great movie this weekend: Pawn Sacrifice.  This is one of my all-time favorite Chess movies:

If you watch it, tell me what you think.

So this past week after looking at my data and my performance with my coach, it is pretty clear that my tactical ability hasn't really improved; at least as demonstrated by my puzzle performance.

That said, I can definitely still tell that I'm playing a better game of chess than I was two months ago. So while I don't have empiric evidence of improvement per se, I can say I am definitely enjoying my games much more and feel like my playing is less "push and pray" than it was a few weeks ago.

So here is my performance on puzzles:

So you can see I'm pretty much plateaued at about 50% most of the time. However, I'm still plugging away at them and will continue to do so.

During my last coaching session, when presented with a puzzle, I was being told my instincts were on the right track; but I was always second-guessing myself.  And then I go down a rabbit hole and talk myself out of the best move.

Guess what... I do this off the chessboard too. In life, when I used to take exams pretty regularly in college, I was always talking myself out of my first instinct; and thus talking myself out of the right answer.

I was in higher education for over a decade (I have a few graduate degrees), and I never overcame this personal struggle. Right up to the very last examination I took for my last degree; I was still second-guessing myself.

It fascinates me that this struggle follows me into my chess game as well... and makes me wonder...

We know that teaching children chess at a young age improves their intellectual development. I wonder if learning to trust and explore your instincts is one of them?

What do you all think? Do you talk yourself out of the right answer, in life or on the chessboard? If so, what are your coping strategies? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below!

  • Glenn Julich

If you have been around chess long enough, you have likely heard someone refer to the Rook as "the castle." Usually, this is followed by someone with a higher ELO rating publicly shaming them for their folly.

Interestingly, the rook has had many names over the long history of chess, and indeed "The Castle" was one of them. In addition, it has also been called the Tower, the Rector, and the Marquis; just to name few.

So what was it originally supposed to be?

The word "Rook" comes from the Persian word rukh which means chariot. So originally the Rook was designed to represent a chariot, known for its quick mobility around the battlefield. And interestingly, the chariots were decorated to look like they were built of stonework in order to give the impression that they were heavily-fortified weapons of war.

As time passed, the chariot design transitioned from the chariot to an elephant with (or without) a tower on its back. Ultimately the elephant was dropped and, as it appears today, only the tower remains.

Public domain image.

It is speculated that when the game made it to Italy that the word Rukh sounded a lot like the Italian word Rocca, which means fortress. So this could have lead to them being referred to as the Castle.

It is also theorized that the Rook was transitioned to represent a siege tower, as it was called the Torre in some parts of the world. The word Torre means tower in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. A siege tower would have made perfect sense to the medieval chess player as this was a familiar sight on the medieval battlefield.

Siege tower. Public domain image.

In other parts of the world, the Rook was converted to a ship or boat. I'm glad this didn't transition didn't stick around. The idea of a boat floating (?) around a battlefield doesn't make much sense.

So, after centuries of transitions, the Chess world has ultimately settled upon the Rook whose name is derived from the Persian word for chariot and whose design represents a tower with battlements placed atop it.

Sorry, elephants.

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