Return of the Hobbies

Starting when I was about 10, I went through a series of hobbies.  I imagine a lot of boys do this.

For a while, I was into coin collecting, and I spent all of my allowance and lawn mowing money adding to my collection.  I even went to the banks, and traded in my dollars for coins in order to search the rolls for rare coins.  Once I got really lucky, because someone had rolled up their silver half dollars and their old wheat pennies that probably sat in a jar for 30 years, and I found them.  I still have the collection (including about 2,000 wheat pennies worth about $.03 each), but I have only added a few coins to it since my college days.  

I took up building model rockets, and did that for several years.  I also built several rubber powered model airplanes as a kid, but they never flew right.  That was partly my lack of skill in building, and partly because I bought models that were not good flyers even in the best of circumstances.  I did get to fly my dad’s radio controlled airplanes sometimes, but I was never allowed to land them.  Flying is easy; landing is where the trouble happens.

During much of high school, I was hooked on chess.  I competed in a lot of tournaments, and I even placed 4th in the Maryland Junior Championship.  (This skill did not help me attract girls.)  Once I even beat a fellow named Robert Fischer.  He wasn’t THE Bobby Fischer, but I can still brag, right? Unfortunately, chess and marriage are not very compatible, so my days of tournament chess ended in my early twenties.

The thing about addictive hobbies is that, although they may go dormant, they can come back to life again.  This is especially true when you have kids.

This Christmas I got a chess clock.  I got to introduce Anna and Joshua to speed chess.  (Speed chess is where you set the clock really fast.  A typical speed is 5 minutes per player per game.  I gave myself 3 minutes, and gave them 10.)  The nice thing about a chess clock is that it is a great way to handicap a game.  If I only have 3 minutes to play the whole game, I can think as hard as possible and it will still be an even match for my kids. 

Josh and I are hoping to play in at least one tournament this year. Chess is a great way to activate brain cells, as it rewards planning and punishes mental sloppiness. When you have to choose between thinking and losing, you usually choose to think.

And speaking of chess, you may have a stereotype in your mind of what a typical woman chessplayer looks like.  My prejudices are deep-seated:  The only female chessplayer I played against in tournaments was a 45-year-old extrememly nerdy-looking chainsmoker.  This was back in the days when you could smoke during tournaments.  (Yes I’m old.)  To break down this stereotype, here are some pictures of Alexandra Kosteniuk, the top rated woman in Russia:




8 thoughts on “Return of the Hobbies

  1. Looks to me like it is Red’s move.
    Her Knight is out on the town with black’s Bishop.
    This queen looks elusive.
    You get the check; I’ll play mate.
    What a great game, eh?

  2. Valerie,

    O dear, the thought of a chess player posing without a top is so foreign to me that I had not considered it, and I had not considered how shocking that concept would be to my dear readers.

    If you look closely, you can see that she is wearing a top (you can even see the hint of a strap), although it is not obvious.


    It does look like her opponent’s Knight has been played out to the f6 square, and her Bishop went out to f5. beyond that, it’s hard to tell.

  3. I have been at this blog site for a day.
    But, it is not hard to tell in THAT game of chess you post, there are easily 3 queens. It is hard to find a good playing partner anymore and I was glad to see in this post that they are still around.

    I never cared much for speed chess (tho official rules sure back you up). I saw chess more like a good book. Some books I read extremely fast (I check out 5 to 20 books at a time at the library). Reading fast is gaining the knowledge and going through the motions.

    Occasionally, i come across an author who writes so splendidly that I do not want it to conclude, so I read much slower and taste each morsel presented. The savoring lasts.
    In fact, I often choose books by author over title.

    Chess is the same way. I like to slow down and savor each morsel. Like a great golf shot, each move changes every possible move that follows. I find no skill in seeing the one who plays fastest as best. There is a good chance that ALL possibilities have yet to be considered given the timer.
    It would be like running through 18 holes of golf and playing every shot while running,…and using a 3 iron.
    It can be done, but it ain’t as fun, nor effective.
    Happy New Year.

  4. Yeah, she’s wearing a dress with straps. I had my doubts the first few times I looked at the picture, but then I noticed the line of red behind the left side of the chessboard indicating a strapless dress. I didn’t even notice the strap, though, but it’s there.

  5. Lenny,
    I hate to disagree with you, but I think Alexandra is much prettier than your cousin Bianca. Of course I haven’t seen Bianca since she got her new false teeth…

  6. I was browsing blogs about wheat pennies and found yours. I’d love to find 2000 wheat pennies! LOL! Congrats on the great find AND for keeping them all these years. I have a wheat penny website where I provide a lot of info about wheat pennies, including which one are the most valuable. You’re welcome to check it out if you’d like to see which of your wheat pennies may be valuable.

    Also, I used to play chess in high school. I have a 13 year old nephew who is wanting to learn to play, but he’s just a beginner, so when I play with him, I have been “dumbing down” my moves to make things more fair. But, I just love your strategy of playing speed chess. That makes far more sense and I can really play while keeping it fair at the same time. Brilliant move! I’m going to start doing that, myself. Thanks for the terrific tip! 🙂

    Mike Smith

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