The Hate
by pdeck

Sat May 08, 03:22 CDT 1998. Things are going badly. I've been playing lightning on FICS for about four hours and my rating is below 1950 for the first time in over a year. My opponent for the past hour and half has been horseshitting me with shameless forks, pins, skewers, discovered attacks, unsound sacrifices, back rankers, pawn steamrollers, diagonal cheese, and queen checks.

With each new game comes repentance for tactical blunders and wasted tempi followed immediately by firm purpose of amendment. I bear down, brace my left forearm against my desk, center my mouse on its pad, type "accept" and await white's first move, e-pawn in hand.

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nd2 Nf6

The fleeting feeling of hope lasts through nine moves, after which I realize that my Queen side speculation cost me a piece without any compensation, so I retreat my Queen into a terribly cramped position typical of the Tarrasch French -- typical for me, anyway. "This is my kind of position," I tell myself. I grit my teeth and defend, striving desperately to maintain a center Pawn phalanx and a spare, well-coordinated cluster of pieces near my King, while engineering some kind of crappy Pawn counterplay on the Queen side. But with grim surety, my opponent is peeling the rind of chessmen from my crippled King side to expose the succulent fruit of weak squares and the frail monarch cowering within.

I have the hate. I hate my opponent. I hate the spectators that goaded me into playing an extended series with someone who often gets my rating points. I hate the guys in the Lightning Channel for teasing me about my blunders and then logging off at midnight, leaving me to fester in a death spiral of worthless, repetitive chess punctuated only by one or two mad dashes to the men's room or poorly-stocked vending machines. More than anything, I hate myself. I spend too much god-damned time playing lightning, giving up both work and sleep. And what do I have to show for it? A shitty rating. Finally dawn breaks, and in my Telnet Window appears what I have both desired and dreaded:

rusty says: three more


Success in chess is best measured by the degree to which the opponent has been demoralized. Our reigning World Chess Champions confirm this fact.

Kasparov: And the most important superiority, the most total one, is the superiority of the mind. I mean, your opponent must be destroyed. Fully destroyed. [1]

Karpov: This is the move that ultimately brought victory in the match, since at this moment Anand was psychologically beaten. I could feel his nerves give way; he could not believe that after I suffered so many troubles I would refuse to make a draw. [2]

The pace of internet lightning chess demands more efficient language:

Obiwan says: you weren't even close, you fat fuck


Sat May 08, 05:28 CDT 1998. Nobody will play. The "who" command returns a few idling computer accounts and half a dozen wankers chatting up rubbish in the bughouse channel. I review my game history and my statistics to see how many games I have played in the past several hours and how many I've won and lost. Nothing has changed.

Briskly, I don my coat, flip out the lights in my office, and head for my car. On the short drive back to my squalid apartment, the lyrics of Mike and the Mechanics echo in my mind's ear:

It's the bitterness that lasts.

[1] Quoted by Rudolph Chelminski in Smithsonian, January, 1998, p. 47.

[2] Chess Life, April 1998, p. 75.