Rules and Etiquette for Chess Amateurs
It seems hard to believe that the last time I was able to impart the spiritual interventions of our patron goddess on these pages was nearly 3 months ago! Back then I had innocently imagined that I would continue to pass on her words to you, her loyal disciples, on a weekly basis. Sadly, the path of we true believers is a tortuous and difficult one. Even as I pressed “Publish” on the last post the front door of my home was being demolished by the local constabulary who had come to assist the men in white coats. I was bundled unceremoniously into an ambulance and forced to suffer a brief period of incarceration at a sanitorium. Finally, after several interviews with a specialist over a number of weeks, I was able to persuade the authorities that the “voices in my head” were in fact completely harmless and that I was merely the oracle of the goddess Caïssa who had been unjustly accused and persecuted by unbelievers.
So then, now that I’m back where I belong, let us pick up from where we left off. Today, further instructions on appropriate conduct at the board. Specifically, drinking during play. These are the words of Caïssa.
#8: Have a drink
Self-evidently chess amateurs are not professional athletes. Whilst the baby-faced Magnus Carlsen may elect to guzzle a glass of milk and the sophisticated Levon Aronian may carefully select the most appropriate brand of mineral water with which to slake his thirst during combat, such levels of abstinence are not to be expected at a social and amateur level. That the game is played by people of all ages who are in various states of physical fitness demonstrates the inclusivity of the game. However, as this hoary old anecdote illustrates, some amateurs play chess primarily so that they have an excuse to partake of a drink or three.
One team mate of mine at club I played for years ago was a real ale fanatic and not at all averse to heavily patronising a home team’s hospitality facilities wherever he travelled. On one occasion whilst making his return to the board from the bar he managed to drop his glass spilling his entire pint across the floor. Cursing his clumsiness he quickly turned and raced back out of the room again.
Watching all this take place his bemused opponent murmured.
“Where is he going now?”
And, sitting one board down from him, the drunken player’s colleague overheared him and drolly replied.
“To get a straw!”
So were should a sensible amateur chess player draw the line? Let’s not be completely abstemious, by all means have a glass of something whilst you play if you enjoy it. As a general rule though, it is best to moderate your intake to “nerve-calming” rather than “trouser-wetting” quantities. There is nothing more unpleasant than having to claim a win on time against an opponent who has drunk themselves unconscious (or incontinent!) at the board. Bear in mind also that, whilst it is encouraged to take your adversaries pieces, it is not good practice to take his drink as well, no matter who or how good you are. Witness Blackburne’s unseemly behaviour at a simultaneous display he was giving:
“My opponent left a glass of whiskey ‘en prise’ and I took it ‘en passant’”
– Henry Blackburne
Perhaps we should conclude this post by inviting readers to continue with the little game we started at the end of our last article and suggest the perfect beverage to accompany their favorite chess openings. For example, what could be better than a nice cup of Earl Grey when venturing the English Opening…