Tracy&James | Sunday, 9 June 2024

I've recently started playing a bit of chess online. I've played the game since I learnt as a child but I've never really had anyone to play against. Whilst growing up I was quickly able to beat my family although, to be honest, they were more interested in practising football or golf in the back garden than playing a 'boring' board game with me. Latterly I've had the odd game with Tracy but again the gulf in knowledge shows and these games have mostly been very one sided, and perhaps the willingness to get beaten again is hard to muster – she's great at backgammon though! As such, finding an online community where I can play games against players of a similar rating has been great.

Recently whilst on the chess website I've signed up to, there was an International Master taking on all comers – he was playing maybe ten games concurrently whilst streaming live on Twitch, giving a commentary on how each of his opponents were playing. An International Master is just one step below a Chess Grand Master – GMs are the savants of the chess world, absolutely brilliant at the game, studying the concepts at a level way beyond my comprehension – however, they're probably socially inept and need someone to help them with everyday tasks such as getting dressed and eating. IMs are a bit more rounded, sure they've had the same chess upbringing from a very young age, but I think they discovered there was a life outside of the game. Thus they developed into slightly more rounded individuals who are able to play chess and talk at the same time. They are still going to crush anyone who isn't themselves a IM or GM at the game, unless of course their opponent was cheating by using a computer – which one was as I watched (playing a perfect 100% game, i.e. making every move exactly as the highest rated chess engine would, is a bit of a giveaway).

Once the chess streamer had beaten all the opponents (apart from the one cheater), and explained to his live audience all the mistakes they had made, he opened things up for a new set of challengers. I immediately signed up. I did this knowing I would get absolutely slaughtered and it turned out that I was by far the lowest rated player who volunteered to be in the second round of victims. Now, am I going to report a miraculous win here? No, of course not – I got crushed exactly as I thought I would, you simply don't get 'lucky' in a game of chess. I did however last longer than I'd hoped for, resigning at around move 40 whilst other, more highly rated players than me, barely got out of the opening before being check-mated. I don't know whether the IM took pity on me to extend things; the analysis feature I used afterwards showed I had played a pretty accurate game (for me) at 85%, whereas the IM played 95%, however it also showed that he was always in control, slowly squeezing the life out of my position like a python squeezes the life out of a rabbit.

So what has this got to do with fly casting? Well not a lot other than the thought that fly casters tend to be very reticent with regards to entering fly casting competitions and I don't know why. I jumped at the chance at playing the IM knowing that I potentially could have been humiliated with the fastest defeat, live-streamed, in the history of on-line chess. However, my thought was one of 'when else would I get to play a game against such an esteemed opponent?' (I looked him up and he's an ex-national champion). Unless I had a time machine, so I could go back and study chess non-stop from infancy, get a recognised rating, and then enter the same high-level tournament as him, then it would never happen. So why don't fly casters take the opportunity to cast against top level casters? Sure, they're not going to win – although there is an element of luck with the wind, but they are going to learn something. In fact, if they talked to the winners after the event I'm positive that they'd do everything they can to help improve their cast, however this often comes with some brutal honesty which may bruise a fragile ego. I certainly wouldn't pass on the opportunity to cast against anyone, irrespective of their reputation. Hopefully others reading this will who have been reluctant in the past will give it a go. There really isn't anything to lose other than the opportunity.

Hope you have a great week,