Board Games Are Back!

An article in The Atlantic magazine, The Invasion of the German Board Games attracted my attention because a “like” in my inbox recently was on my mind.

Below the title of the article by Jonathan Kay, dated Jan 21, 2018, one finds: Their peaceful premises and intricate rule systems are changing the way Americans play—and helping shape an industry in the process.

“In a development that would have been hard to imagine a generation ago, when video games were poised to take over living rooms, board games are thriving. Overall, the latest available data shows that U.S. sales grew by 28 percent between the spring of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Revenues are expected to rise at a similar rate into the early 2020s—largely, says one analyst, because the target audience “has changed from children to adults,” particularly younger ones.

Much of this success is traceable to the rise of games that, well, get those adults acting somewhat more like children. Clever, low-overhead card games such as Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler, and Exploding Kittens (“A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions”) have sold exceptionally well.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/german-board-games-catan/550826/

Secret Hitler? Exploding Kittens? To me a board game would be Backgammon, Chess, or Go. Who knows, maybe in the future there will be an Exploding Chess game on the market…

My inbox contained this: Gamer On Board liked your post on Armchair Warrior

They thought Rethinking Opening Strategy was pretty awesome.

You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours!

They (also) thought “They’re here” was pretty awesome.

I always “go see what they’re up to” if someone likes a post. For the next seven days Gamer On Board is having a “Super Sale up to 80% off all items!”

They have all kinds of board games for sale, including a Ches set! Check them out. Be sure to tell them the Armchair Warrior sent you.

https://gameronboard.com/

7. The Game

Your life defined by many lies
You dwell in your own words
Distant from all that’s real
Gaze into the mirror
And behold the Face of a player

A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game
A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game of life

In some situations once so common
And then disappointed stabbed those
That once aided you in the back
Seeking truth in a glass

A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game
A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game of life

Aggressive and disappointed
You roam through life
Tossing away
Your whole future for a
Small illusion in your head

A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game
A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game of life

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Girly Girls and Girly Men

In an article in the Atlantic dated August 6, 2013, “Soccer Isn’t for Girly-Girls? How Parents Pick the Sports Their Daughters Play,” by Hilary Levy Friedman, (http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/08/soccer-isnt-for-girly-girls-how-parents-pick-the-sports-their-daughters-play/278386/), the question is posed, “Should a girl do soccer, dance, or chess?” The answer is given immediately with, “It depends on what kind of woman her mom and dad want her to become.”
The article is based on her book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, which is to be published by the University of California Press later this month. She writes, “Over the course of 16 months I interviewed nearly 200 parents, children, and teachers/coaches involved with these competitive after-school activities in six different organizations, three in the suburbs and three in an urban setting. While boys were also part of the larger study, what I found about girls and competition was especially intriguing for what it says about who these young women might grow up to become.”
There is little mention of boys in the Atlantic article or any of the others I have read, such as this one at the Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2386335/How-parents-pick-school-activities-daughters-compete-based-kind-woman-want-be.html. The author will “make the rounds” just as most all writers do, appearing on shows like “Fresh Air” on NPR, and Book TV. The book will no doubt prompt much discussion.
Ms. Friedman writes, “Unlike masculinity, multiple forms of femininity are seen as acceptable by parents and by children, so it’s not surprising that different gender scripts emerged for each of the three activities. The names of these different gender scripts–“graceful,” “aggressive,” and “pink”–all came from language used by parents of girls in interviews. They help us understand how parents choose among different activities for their daughters.”
I grew up in a home with three women, my mother and two sisters. Mother wanted my sisters to learn something about automobiles and me to learn how to survive in a kitchen. Friends and family thought my mother a crazy radical, even though she was a Goldwater Republican. There was a battle when my mother wanted to learn how to drive. My father was, naturally, against the idea, as were all the other men in our world. After learning to drive, mother wanted next to go to a night school in order to learn how to repair automobiles. My parents compromised, with mother obtaining a car after promising to not go to a Technical school. Women’s liberation was just beginning then and the thought of women being “liberated” frightened the men, who much preferred their woman the way Mick Jagger preferred his women-under his thumb.
I have taught chess to girls with individual lessons, in after school programs, and during chess camps. I have often wondered why the parents wanted their girl to learn how to play chess. Reading these articles has given me a clue. For example, one father is afraid his little girl will grow to become a “girly-girl.” From the article, “One father, whose older son plays travel soccer and whose seven-year-old daughter is already a member of a training academy team, captures the core elements of the aggressive girls gender script: de-emphasizing physical femininity, focusing on future career opportunities, and cultivating a winning attitude. He is concerned that his daughter has a tendency to be too feminine and not aggressive enough:
I encourage her to be more aggressive because she’s a cute little girl, but I don’t like her to be a girly girl. . . . You know, I don’t want her to be a cheerleader–nothing against that–but I want her to prepare to have the option, if she wants to be an executive in a company, that she can play on that turf. And if she’s kind of a girly girl, maybe she’ll be a secretary.”
Being a cheerleader did not prevent George “Dubya” Bush from being selected POTUS by the Supremes, unfortunately. He made it to being the chief executive of the US in spite of the fact he was a “girly-man” as the Governator would say.
When the article gets to chess the girls are called, “Pink Warrior Girls.” Who knows, it could be that in about forty or fifty years a woman will be writing a chess blog called the “Pink Armchair Warrior.” Pink warrior girls are, “Like soccer girls, chess girls are encouraged to be aggressive. But this aggression is slightly different because chess is not a physical game. Unlike dance and soccer, chess is a primarily a mental competition, so physical femininity is not an issue at competitive events. With the lack of physicality, the femininity associated with chess is more inclusive. Chess promotes a hybrid gender script for the small group of girls who participate. These girls learn to be aggressive, but they also can focus on a feminine appearance if they so choose. Chess allows girls to be what one mother of two sons described to me as a “pink girl”: “These girls have princess T-shirts on. [They have] rhinestones and bows in their hair–and they beat boys. And the boys come out completely deflated. That’s the kind of thing I think is so funny. That girl Carolyn, I call her the killer chess player. She has bows in her hair, wears dresses, everything is pink, Barbie backpack, and she plays killer chess.”
That a winning girl can look so feminine has an especially strong effect on boys, and their parents. A chess mom described how a father reacted negatively when his son lost to her daughter: “The father came out and was shocked. He said, ‘You let a girl beat you!’ ”
Susan Polgar, who has become unofficial spokeswoman for girl chess, is quoted in the article. “For people affiliated with scholastic chess, it matters that the game is not physical. For example, when I spoke with Susan Polgar–the first female Grandmaster, a leading advocate for girls in chess, and an author on gender and chess–she said the fact that chess is not a physical game is important in its promoting gender equality: “Well, I think girls need to understand that, yes, they have equal potential to boys. I think that chess is a wonderful tool as an intellectual activity, where girls can prove that unlike in physical sports, because by nature maybe boys are stronger or faster, in chess women can prove equal.”
She may be right and eventually women may prove to be equal to men in chess, but it has yet to occur. Only one woman in the history of chess has proven to be equal to men, and it is not Susan Polgar, but her sister, Judit. It is obvious from some things she has said and written Susan resents that fact, casting blame on others when the truth is that she was never as strong as her sister. The youngest sister, Sofia, who has long since given up chess for marriage and family, had one outstanding result that may have been better than any Susan ever had, according to performance rating, if I remember correctly. Chess is not the only board game in which women have proven inferior to men. Women have always been inferior to men when it comes to the game of Go. Although there were many women playing backgammon when I “punched a time clock” at Gammons every night, none of them were ever a threat to the male players. It is true that a woman would occasionally win one of the short weeknight tournaments, but no woman ever came close to winning one of the much more serious weekend tournaments. There has never been a woman in backgammon comparable to Judit Polgar in chess.
The article states, “Many parents actively use chess as a way to teach girls that they should have similar opportunities as boys. A chess mom explained, “We’re raising her . . . to be feminist. And so she says she wants to be a Grandmaster or the president [of the United States]. She doesn’t have any ideas about gender limitations and I think that’s a good thing.”
I am not so sure “that’s a good thing.” There are things women can do that I will never be able to do, and vice versa. There are, therefore natural “gender limitations” for each of us, whether or not some are willing to admit the fact. I believe that is a wonderful thing. What if men and woman were exactly the same? It would make for a boring existence, would it not?

Speed Chess is Like Spinach for the Brain

This month provided a treasure trove of articles concerning chess in a roundabout way. The first such article to catch my attention was, ‘Chess is like spinach to the brain.’ It was written by Alesha L. Crews of the IowaPress-Citizen. The jury found her guilty of hyperbole in the first degree. http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20130602/NEWS01/306020028/-Chess-like-spinach-brain-?gcheck=1
Mark Samuelian in an article appearing in The Atlantic makes the claim that, “Speed Chess Changed My Brain.” Reading the headline caused me to recall standing in the balcony overlooking the empty playing hall before the World Open was to begin with the Legendary Georgia Ironman. He looked at me and said, “You know, everyone who will enter this room has had his life altered by chess.” Mr. Samuelian claims playing speed chess on the internet caused his synapses to fire as if supercharged, like pistons in a NASCAR engine coated with an illegal substance causing a boost before burning away so as to pass inspection. He placed much higher in a poker tournament even though, “I had barely even played poker over the last year, let alone worked at elevating my game.” What, then, caused his improvement? “What I had played was chess. Specially, I knocked out some 2,000 games of speed (or “blitz”) chess in the two months leading up to the tournament.” He did not win the tournament, finishing 5th out of 135 on Saturday and 3rd out of 35 on Sunday. I will not mention how much luck is involved in poker, especially tournament poker. Steve Solotow, quoted in the excellent book, “Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker,” by James McManus, says, “Unlike backgammon and chess, poker is a wonderful game because it has enough of a luck component that bad players sometimes beat good players, which keeps the bad players interested.” Maybe Mark would have finished first if he had spent the time reading, studying, and playing poker. There is much more to the article: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/speed-chess-changed-my-brain/277151/

An article in Computing begins, “In the keynote speech that opened this year’s Computing Enterprise Mobility Summit in London, Graeme Burton, chief reporter at Computing, likened the task of formulating mobility strategy to “playing chess on acid”.”
Makes me wonder how Mr. Burton knows…The title is, Making Enterprise Mobility Strategy ‘like playing chess on acid.’ Read more: http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2274017/making-enterprise-mobility-strategy-like-playing-chess-on-acid#ixzz2XY58gaAh
Like most of those who play chess, I think of things as how they relate to chess. For instance, an article in the Pacific Standard, Want to Learn How to Think? Read Fiction, made me think of the love of my life who told me I did not read enough fiction. The sub-title is, “New Canadian research finds reading a literary short story increases one’s comfort with ambiguity.”
The article begins, “Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making.” Exactly! Now I know why I made all those ill-considered blunders. Is it better to know, or would I be better off continuing to wonder. Does it matter? Is there an antidote to black-or-white thinking? You will have to read the article to find the answer: http://www.psmag.com/blogs/news-blog/reading-literature-opens-minds-60021/
I have spent an inordinate amount of time in coffee shops in my years as a Senior, due mostly to the fact that a coffee shop, especially one in a book store, is my favorite place to give a chess lesson. There have been days when I would give a morning lesson at a Barnes & Noble, have lunch, and then give an afternoon lesson at Borders, may it rest in peace. I would usually arrive early enough to prepare for the lesson, or at least to try and become focused for the lesson to come. That is the reason an article in the NY Times by Anahad O’Connor, How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity, caught my eye. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/how-the-hum-of-a-coffee-shop-can-boost-creativity/?src=me&ref=general&_r=2
From the article:
“In a series of experiments that looked at the effects of noise on creative thinking, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had participants brainstorm ideas for new products while they were exposed to varying levels of background noise. Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels. A higher level of noise, however, about 85 decibels, roughly the noise level generated by a blender or a garbage disposal, was too distracting, the researchers found.”
I wonder how many decibels the coffee grinder rates? Turning one of those things on usually brought all conversation to a halt. Some people would get up and walk around, or go outside to have a smoke. Now that was creative thinking! Back to the article:
“Ravi Mehta, an assistant professor of business administration at the university who led the research, said that extreme quiet tends to sharpen your focus, which can prevent you from thinking in the abstract.
“This is why if you’re too focused on a problem and you’re not able to solve it,” Dr. Mehta said, “you leave it for some time and then come back to it and you get the solution.”
But moderate levels can distract people just enough so that they think more broadly. “It helps you think outside the box,” he said.
The benefits of moderate noise, however, apply only to creative tasks. Projects that require paying close attention to detail, like proofreading a paper or doing your taxes, Dr. Mehta said, are performed better in quiet environments.”
The article begins, “Pulling up a seat at your favorite coffee shop may be the most efficient way to write a paper or finish a work project. But now a new Web site lets you bring the coffee shop to your cubicle. The site, called Coffitivity, was inspired by recent research showing that the whoosh of espresso machines and caffeinated chatter typical of most coffee shops creates just the right level of background noise to stimulate creativity. The Web site, which is free, plays an ambient coffee shop soundtrack that, according to researchers, helps people concentrate.”
So should game tournaments be held in an environment with ambient noise at a coffee shop level? The answer is contained in the article.
I clicked on the website (http://coffitivity.com/) and found it distracting. I kept looking around to try and put a face to the voice. The article says absolutely nothing about the social aspect of a coffee shop and what being around fellow humans does to one’s creativity. Guess that would be an altogether different study.