Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chess—My Newest Vice

Chess isn’t something that I’ve just taken up. I’ve played for decades. Sometimes pretty well; sometimes not very well. I’ve always thought that playing chess was good for me. It exercises the mind; keeps my facilities sharp; and at worst costs almost no money and is a quiet, harmless pastime. At worse I may only pay half attention to a phone call because I’ve gotten bored and I am playing a game of chess at the same time as talking on the telephone. Chess really can’t be bad for you, can it?

Not so.

A week ago Judy Lawrence, who oversees the management of all our properties, including the preparations at CityWalk@Akard, brought me the following article—from no less an authority than Scientific American:

DESCENT INTO CHESS—‘A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this? It may be asked. We answer, chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises—not this sort of mental gladiatorship.’

Worst of all, I don’t even have the excuse that this is a new discovery—that I was innocently playing chess not knowing that it was bad for me (sort of like claiming that I didn’t know cigarettes were addictive).

The article is from the July 1859 edition of Scientific American.

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