I’ve wanted to become good at chess for a while. It seems like something I should do well in – I program, I meditate, I love music, all the traits one hears about in good chess players, but I always get my ass kicked by the computer. I heard that the Hadley School for the Blind offered a chess course. Initially, I wrote it off – I wouldn’t want to go to some lame blind institution just to take a chess course. While talking to another blind friend, she said: “It’s online!” It looked great – free, you get to go at your own pace, so I figured I’d give it a try.
I swore I would never go back to college. When I went to Widener, I called it the bane of my existence, and meant it. I’ll take this course, and see how it goes, and go from there – starting with something fun. They seem pretty cool, and today I got my materials for the beginner’s chess course, the first of two parts. The teacher sounded nice too.
Along with the book, which I will get to in a moment, it came with a booklet of raised diagrams, and a free chess board! Wow! I thought I’d firstly evaluate the board, since others have wondered. It has nice big squares, and a nice finish. It has a great vibe! Wood gives off a vibe. The pieces, however, either don’t fit in well, or fit in too well, and come flying out when taking out the peace. A pawwn, the Unknown Soldier, met this fate once already. It also doesn’t have a storage space for captured peaces, something other boards have.
Also unlike other boards, it has braille along all four sides. This actually makes sense, making it easier to identify coordinates whether playing white or black, where the coordinates become reversed. Weirdly, it uses dropped letters for numbers. In braille, the number sign denotes that the next letter represents a number. Nemeth, or math braille, uses dropped letters as numbers. It goes against the standard and messes with my head. The spacing feels off between the characters. An upside down number 1 looks like a dot-5-P, which means “Part” in grade ii braille. Oh well. I still appreciate the free board, and will try to use it and enjoy its nice feeling.
Now, on to the course materials, a book called Chess for Beginners. Unfortunately, they only offered the materials in braille or on cassette. I would have preferred an electronic text, but oh well. I chose cassette, since I can listen much faster than I can read braille. This, however, meant finding a working cassette player.
It seems so funny, everyone used to do everything on tape. As a kid, my mom got me the hundred greatest books on tape. “I thought you’d appreciate them when you got older, but now….. do you even use cassettes?” she asked. All my tape recorders have long since stopped working, or at least don’t work like they used to.
I found one, a Handy Cassette, a great recorder for the blind. I plugged it in, and it released the Magic Smoke. For those who don’t know, the joke goes that electronics run on magic smoke – when the smoke comes out, the device stops working. It freaked me out hard. My girlfriend had to help me out. I still feel hypersensitive. Don’t laugh! I’ve always feared exploding batteries. People have gotten killed from them! A friend will lend me a tape recorder, and I will get a free one from the Library for the Blind, so it should work out. I’ll let you know.