Chess player making a move

Chess 101

Board games are a perfect at-home activity for warm winter nights. Why has chess become so popular in recent months? There are two clear answers: first, people are spending more time at home during the pandemic and second, the popularity of a Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” that follows fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon.

Local chess aficionado and teacher Greg Luecke joined a recent virtual tasting to share some thoughts on how you can learn or improve your chess game. There are two necessary steps according to Luecke:   1/ learn about the strategy and rules of the game, either with a teacher or by reading books for beginners, and 2/ practice (with other humans), even if online.

Learn about strategy and rules of the game of Chess

Here are some reading suggestions for beginning chess players:

These books are best suited for more advanced players:

Chess may not be the easiest game to learn, but it is great fun and popular all over the world. It relies on strategy and skill; there is no luck or chance involved. There are 3 parts to the game – opening, middle and end – and each phase of play has a different strategy. Some concepts to keep in mind as you start a chess game:

  1. Develop all your pieces rapidly, starting with knights and bishops
  2. Avoid moving too many pawns, moving the same piece twice, or blocking pieces in, so your pieces can develop quickly in the opening phase
  3. Get your king to safety by castling early!
  4. Control the center with pawns and/or pieces

Practice, Practice, Practice

To improve your chess game, practice is essential. Luecke recommends playing online on one of these two websites: and

Both offer free games; he recommends you sign up for a user ID, which enables the site to calculate your rating based on your wins and losses. This way, the more you play, the more accurate your rating will be, so you can play with people of a similar skill level. This is much more enjoyable than being frustrated by games against vastly better opponents.

Chess players are far from dull. Here are the top three most interesting chess players of all time, according to Luecke:

  1. Bobby Fischer because he was weird beyond all chess norms, and he aroused more interest in chess than anyone in history.
  2. Paul Morphy, if for no other reason but the story that he died in a tub surrounded by women’s shoes. He was also the first American recognized as world champion.
  3. Alexander Alekhine for his enormous ego and his belief that he shouldn’t need a passport during WWII since he was the world chess champion.

Thank you to Napa resident and Chess aficionado Greg Luecke for your advice and willingness to help us all improve our chess game.



February 3, 2021

Categories: Uncategorized

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