As a kid, our Idaho family home didn’t get The NY Times, so my math-minded father one winter conjured a chessboard, set up little men like ants, and told me to move them as seemed logical by their stature. In one year I was beating him while reading funny books. He threw up his arms in disgust, and a week later Santa left How to Win in the Chess Openings by Al Horowitz under a pine tree in the living room.
Having spent an alarmingly chunk of the next year at the solitaire chess board, my mother encouraged me out to sports, and I undertook them with an onerous chess mind, flicking baseball pitches onto a canvas bull’s-eye and football passes into a swinging bushel basket.
In winter, it was chess again, but also taking a shovel and rubber ball to the nearest vertical wall to remove the snow and bounce, bounce the ball for hours in practicing what I didn’t quite know. The correct assumption was that solutions to problems I didn’t know yet would crystallize, just like on the chessboard. If a theory sleeted in a blizzard, I retreated down the basement steps to the furnace room to bounce a basketball around pieces of coal that were the defense, and practiced it.
Anyone who wishes to learn how to play chess in sport may well become conversant in positions where the players are, were and will be. This is how chess guided me into sport, and especially racquet sports where I became a six-time national singles champion in paddleball and #2 ranked racquetball pro throughout the decade of the ‘70s.
Chess opened my eyes to a sequence of moves in sports, and to identify those action frames, lock on one, and alter the fate of play to championships.