I play chess. If that gives you an impression of old men sitting for hours in hunched concentration in cold church halls, then you are probably not too far from the truth. You don’t play chess to meet laydeez.
The internet has changed the way we play chess. Now you can log on and find yourself in a one minute game with a player from anywhere in the world. We can rub silicon shoulders with Grandmasters. We can replay just about any important game that’s ever been played or watch videos about great games. It’s the equivalent of internet chess porn, where you watch other people doing it. Usually far more athletically and energetically than you could manage.
I found that I could enjoy chess without actually playing it. And that meant I didn’t have to endure a long drive in the evening to a church hall in the middle of nowhere. On the internet I could analyse famous games or chat with fellow chess players. I could even do that thing you can’t do in a serious game, which is to crack a joke.
I found myself gravitating to a website called http://www.chessgames.com. One of the good things about this website is that there is a puzzle of the day. It’s a bit like the old rhyme about Monday’s child being fair of face. Only on chessgames.com, Monday’s puzzle is usually an easy-peasy mate in two or three. Then the puzzles get harder as the week progresses until the hardest puzzle on Sunday with the slightly non-PC (but very accurate) rating of “insane”.
This is how it works. You look at the puzzle and try to work out what you would play next in a real game. Then you click on the game page for that puzzle and see what was really played. The fun part comes next. You get to chat to other chess players about the puzzle. Maybe you found something that no-one else spotted. Or perhaps you didn’t understand something. Or you just want to brag about how fast you solved it. That sort of thing.
One day, a mad idea occurred to me. Instead of writing down chess moves, why not tell a story about the game? After all, a chess game is a story turned into a game. It is a battle between two armies told on a board with 64 squares and 16 different characters. Why not reverse the process and turn a game into a story?
So that’s what I did. One day, instead of chatting about the game I wrote a story. I didn’t know what the other people on the site would make of it, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The reaction took me by surprise. Not everyone was a fan, but plenty of people liked it. I wrote some more. They liked that too. Eventually, someone asked me if I would turn my stories into a book.
And that is what I did.