As I shuffle along in my 75th year of life, I have a few regrets. First, I wish I had learned to be fluent in another language. Oh, I can get along in French and Spanish, but the reason I can get along in those languages is that I don’t know enough words to insult anybody.
Another regret: I never learned to play chess. But as they say, it’s never too late to make a move. I got online to research books for novice chess players. There were several…dozen: Chess for Dummies, Chess for Idiots, Chess for Beginners, Beat Your Dad in Chess, and Chess for Toddlers, to name but a few.
The biggest question for choosing my reading material was whether I was an idiot or a dummy. Then I figured I’d give myself a little more credit, so I started with Advanced Strategies in Chess. After looking at the first chapter, I went back online and ordered Chess for People Who are Still Stumped by Checkers.
I opted to learn the game by playing online. Several websites give you the tools to understand the rules, study how pieces move, and do chess exercises, which I found harder than spending an hour on my treadmill.
On one site, you are paired with people to play against. These are not real people, but computer bots. Each one is given a little bio to make the opponent seem more human. There is also a thumbnail caricature of the person.
André is a grandmaster. He says he is proud of how he positions himself. He is married and has nine children so apparently, he’s really good at it.
Sven, who is 30 years old and a bodybuilder, says he just taught his 6-year-old son to play chess. “I beat him every time,” he brags. Okay, this guy is a jerk. He probably beats the kid in boxing, too.
Canty is an international grandmaster. The bio says he is very tricky and “might catch you with your pants down.” Thank goodness this is not on Zoom.
Tanya is described as a beginner, but I think the website messed up the player’s name because in the picture Tanya has a full-length beard, arms like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and an arm tattoo that depicts a busty woman with the name Angie.
My favorite was Zara. Her write-up says she is a good sport, loves animals, is a nonsmoker and wants to play with someone who likes romantic dinners. Hmmm, maybe she thinks she’s on
Virgil is a mid-level player. He is obsessed with chess and plays from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed. He has nothing else in his life but chess. I say, let’s fix him up with Zara.
My son Brett has not played since he was 12 years old, 20 years ago. But incredibly, he still remembers every aspect of the game. He stopped playing because he just got bored with it. He reluctantly agreed to play with me yesterday. Hoping to spice things up—and knowing both of us like a little skin in the game—I asked Brett how we could make things a little more interesting.
He recommended we pack up the board and look for a movie on Netflix.

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@