In 2002 when I went to prison in Florida for 22 months, playing chess for $1/game was my "hustle", and it allowed me to eat really well at a panhandle camp that was well known for its terrible chow.
Also, a rather odd but very beneficial side effect of my play came into focus...my chess ability seemed to convey a certain status to me by old timers on the yard, and assigned to me a certain "respect" level that basically kept me rather safe during my entire stay.
I'll admit...I wasn't always totally virtuous while hustling. I often lost to players in the beginning as to set the hook for future games and profitability.
The most interesting part is that, in reality, I kinda suck at chess in the real world by my own demanding standards.
In prison I guess that counts for nothing. Except you made it count for something and created the same situation for yourself 'from the bootstraps'.
I am not going to pretend I know anything about what prison is like though.
In prison, you have people totally isolated from society, many for a long damn time, and some are actually interested in doing things that improve their lives and of course pass the time.
Becoming the best chess player, or the best basketballer, or whatever, on the "yard" is something to aspire to, and if you have something of value to offer these convicts that helps them achieve these goals, they will respect that and pretty much leave you alone since you are helping them.
This is how my chess playing helps me...it makes them better. The only way to get better in chess is to either study hard via puzzles and books (boring) or play someone better then you (fun).
But the same thing happens in the law libraries or even the computer labs...in the music rooms and on the football fields. Talent is always recognized and smarts are in short supply in general.
Not much different from the tech world huh?
That's interesting, I wasn't aware there was a difference at all. Care to enlighten me?
Prison is where the person spends their sentence or waits a full sentence - usually in months or years.
Did you get mistreated by any of the prison employees?
My very first job as a programmer was at a company which just started an internal chess championship. I entered the competition mainly to get to know the colleagues and have some fun, expecting them to be very strong players.
At the beginning of every match I asked them the question "IIRC the knight moves in an L shape, right?". That question was enough to make my opponents brutally underestimate my game. By the time they realised the error they made, they were in deep trouble: 5-6 pawns down, very difficult to come back. I've got my first 3 or 4 games easily won this way and the next player said something like "haha, yeah, cut the bullshit". I won that game too, but much harder. That first easy victories made win the championship in the end and got me the reputation of a smart guy.
As a junior software developer (among 12 other juniors who joined the company the same day as me), it was a nice way to make myself noticed.
GM Ben Finegold at the "Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis" he's always entertaining and his videos are packed full of content that would appeal to an average player.
I haven't been to prison but I get paid for my corporate job, I get to go home, and I can quit.
There's a spectrum.
So I have an escape charge in Florida (escape, not absconding) for not returning to a county work release center in Orlando many years ago. This was a really dumb thing to do because now, whenever I'm jailed I often get thrown in with the "high-security" inmates whom are also known as the murderers and anyone looking at over 20-years if convicted.
My last time through the system in Florida, I must have spent 4-5 hours a day playing chess with an alleged murderer whom was infatuated with the game and trying very hard to get better. I was in for some possession charges...bullshit really but because the old escape charge there I was.
This man had deep respect in the jail as his brother was at FSP/Raiford actually on death row for an execution-style murder committed about a decade earlier. The alleged murder this man committed was related to that very incident.
Anyway, I had played his brother for several months back "in the day" and was the only person in the jail who could beat him, and to be honest, I became somewhat a legend in C-block for my game. Remember, these people in this block often sit in county jail for 3-5 years waiting for trial and such, so the "institutional memory" actually lasts a long time in such a dismal place.
Long story somewhat short: By spending so many hours teaching this man to play much much better, he put the word out that no one was to fuck with me, and I was not only really safe, but was fed and taken care of by the group.
Very odd experience, but every word true.
If folks are sufficiently hard up for entertainment that they're willing to pay a dollar (more than you'd think, in prison) for a game of chess, they're gonna value that game and its provider.
My best "customers" were actually people who had a good deal of "income" (remember...there are many millionaires in prisons all over the world) who really didn't mind losing $1 a game 1. to get better and 2. for a safe social interaction with someone like myself who has a sparkling wit and overall interesting things to say (so I've heard :)
Prison isn't really that much different then life, but the sociopaths you meet there are far more likely to be violent then the ones running your company.
Pretty sure that in prison it's more about who's ass you can kick than who you can outwit on a chess board when it comes to safety.
>handy to have around if you have anyone with a budding escape plan.
That sounds more like Prison Break than reality.
A 1740 on lichess would be around 1600 in standard ELO (which itself is not a bad rating)
I was going through some personal problems a year back and found myself constantly just staying up into the night, playing game after game of 5/0 or 3/2 blitz chess. I couldn't stop. It was therapeutic, but also a way of sort of avoiding the problems I had going in my life. I know it wasnt the best use of my time, but man it felt good to tune out for a while and in a weird way I think it helped me get through some of the problems I was facing.
I’ve occasionally spent a few hours playing chess, or connect four, or table football, or some mindless card game with someone when one or both of us was going through a rough spot, and the combination of relatively automatic action plus occasional conversation with a human on the other side is very helpful.
That said, I once tried to relax by playing a chess game and I almost punched something I was so frustrated with how quiet and slow the game was ;)
The best players in the world have put so many thousands of hours into the game that they can beat casual players trivially without thinking more than one move ahead. They owe this ability to having vast knowledge of fundamentals and theoretical lines in all the most common positions. This is how they are able to win simultaneous exhibitions against a large number of casual players.
No puzzles though.
The addictive element of chess reminds me of Satyajit Ray's movie "Shatranj Ke Khiladi" (The Chess Players). The movie is set in the 19th century at the onset of British colonization of the Indian heartland. It is about two noblemen of the Indian province of Awadh who are addicted to chess to such an extent that they have become oblivious to the dramatic changes happening in their households, the province, and the region in general. There's also a decadent dance-obsessed Nawab (provincial ruler). All three elite aristocrats are consumed in their hobbies and addictions while the British are maneuvering to subjugate their province.
Here's another source for bemused Brits:
We're sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our
international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially
by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits
made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great
new BBC programmes.
BBC Worldwide is a commercial entity, but the BBC's fair trading rules prevents them from promoting a commercial entity to UK licence payers. The somewhat odd outcome is that BBC content is unavailable to people in the UK.
Somehow it's OK if a random person in Afghanistan accesses it for free, but when a BRITISH person in BRITAIN tries to access BRITISH broadcasting corp content then the funding model somehow matters.
Its beyond retarded.
bbc.com is blocked within the UK because it is funded differently.
"We're sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC..."
150 years ago Scientific American bemoaned the "chess phenomenon" that was spreading quickly across the country. They wrote that chess was a trivial game that rotted the mind or something to that extent...
Nowadays, however, chess is probably met more with indifference than anything else. One often hears complaints that it is a gimmick that merely shows that a person is capable of memorizing many, many thousands of positions, not that players are intelligent people in some other, more general respect (whatever “intelligent” might mean here).
Furthermore, it is also understood now that unless you invest in a very large library of chess books and dedicate all your waking hours to memorization, you’ll never be able to play chess at a high level regardless of your passion for the game. Yes, people still play e.g. football among their mates even if they know they aren’t ever going to be pros, but chess competition used to have an aura of being open to any clever player who just used his thinker, and that has now been generally shattered. Plus, computers beat people now.
You don't learn to play chess by memorization. That's like saying that you have to memorize the C language specification to be a C programmer.
Back when I was playing chess I was around 2100 (uscf). I knew almost nothing about chess. However I did have the ability to analyse and a good eye for tactics. That was enough to be almost a Master.
The key to chess is to analyse better than your opponent, not to memorize better than your opponent.
It does not offer the same level of challenge as international chess, but can be played much faster. It favors deep thinker to a strategic player.
The experiment still continues ~ so please share any interesting suggestions.
..which gets sort of interesting when considering the former Kalmykian president who was an avid supporter of the above, but claims to have been taken for a ride to another planet in an alien spaceship. I strongly doubt chess rots the mind, but considering the above, my own eccentricities and past infatuation with chess, it may do queer things to it. I hope to meet Go playing aliens myself, and perhaps have a few games on a pulsar, with a bit of ergot, green tea, and scopolamine as needed.
Specifically he does mention how Chess was considered in ideological terms (for example by the Church, and later by Soviet Communism) and how the public perception of the game changed with time.
https://youtu.be/hK0_QfZyiWI?t=14m22s (from 14:22 - 18:25) its in Hindi, but there are English subtitles.
Really? I wish to go there for vacation. Great subject for Documentary. Anyone?
You can get Visa on Arrival too
If you find it hard to DIY. You can contact professional tour operators in Kerala to plan your vacation.
PS: Kerala has very high literacy about 94.59. Most of Keralites can write/read/speak English. All the information signs/shops/hotels are in English & Malayalam. You will have no problem finding your way around and asking for directions even without a tour guide.
My next door neighbor of the time went on to having an ELO rating well in excess of 2400, back then he was already fearsome and part of the draw was to play against him and watch my own game improve as if by magic.
I remember watching it with dad and it was good fun.. We'd also play chess at home in the evenings. I am still terrible at it though.
In the context of this particular article, the socialization on display feels qualitatively different and superior (to me), to what I associate with even relatively social videogames.
It might be confusing to people very used to the "traditional" rotation, but maybe breaking free of it is a good mental exercise? ;)
Kerala, the state mentioned in the article, is surprisingly distinct from the rest of India.
It has some of the highest literacy rates in India (something like 92%) and an HDI comparable to developed countries.
Historically, Kerala had trade relations with the levant, and Rome from antiquity, and has hosted a large jewish diaspora.
Kerala has also had its share of christian "immigrants", starting with the story of St.Thomas, to traditions about Syrian Christians settling in Kerala during the 4th century AD. 
Plus, the traditional christian church in Kerala is the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox church , with its official language of liturgy being Syriac (a derivative of Aramaic).
Similarly, there is a very ancient muslim tradition in Kerala , including the very first mosque in India.
Kerala is also famous for a lot of its contribution to Hindu thought , while some traditions are markedly different from the rests of India.
Kerala also has its own martial art, which arguably predates the more famous chinese martial arts. 
Finally, IIRC, Kerala was never completely under British rule, but I'm not completely sure on this point.
All in all, a very fascinating place.
Every Indian state deals with stray dogs. Why are stray dog attacks reported as abnormally high in Kerala? Why is Kerala wilfully defying the Supreme Court's verdict on dealing with stray dogs (i.e. to sterilise them)?
> Not sure why western media is so concerned about the life of a dog than a life of Chicken or goat or cow that are regularly killed.
My antecedents are completely irrelevant to the issue. Everybody everywhere has the right to question the mass insanity that the people of Kerala are exhibiting w.r.t. this issue.
Are there multiple different versions of chess played in India?
Chess 960 is a good example of the backline swapping around.
Damn true. I can still remember my high school chess coaches getting mad at us for playing bughouse, saying it ruins our ordinary playing. I never believed it would, and it was quite fun, but then again, practice time is for practice time.
He is a lot of fun to watch especially playing bullet, does great commentary of professional games, and always reviews his games afterwards for learning.
Anyways, yes, it is a cultural thing. If you do it all the time, it is comfortable enough. What Westerner's perceive as uncomfortable is not uncomfortable at all.
Don't forget that Western style toilets are also a relatively new thing, so sitting Western style is actually less common (but is now common in post modern India).
Also, Indians are generally very fastidious and clean. Paradoxically, India itself is quite dirty since the concept of cleanliness in India is usually limited to one's immediate habitat. Sweeping, dusting and mopping is a daily chore in Indian homes unlike the West.
The images in this particular article do not portray a very clean environment though, I'll grant you that.
Why do they do it? Because they can :-)
Is it comfortable? Sure it is, if you've been used to sitting that way for most of your life.
Is it clean? No more cleaner than riding the subway in a major metro or sitting at a park bench or some such. You do notice that they have a rug or some such on which they squat and even if they don't, people tend to keep the areas where they sit relatively clean.
You have to understand that irrespective of where people come from there always is a personal sense of hygiene, it may vary from person to person but by and large there is not a glaringly large variance in what is considered clean by most humans.
Btw, kids in India and Indian adults out of India have also been known to enjoy sitting on the floor :-)
As an aside, Indians often find it uncomfortable to get on to bed with shoes on - which is also cultural.
Though I guess more accurate title would be "half of an Indian village addicted to chess", it is not end of the world.
> It is traditional village. Women don't count.
Is an uneducated guess and that too especially in a highly literate state like Kerala. Maybe the below link can throw some light on the small state of Kerala and why is it very different than other states in India.
According to the 2011 census, Kerala's has overall 94.59 literacy. Females - 92.12, Males - 97.10.
PS: I am a native of Kerala. If anyone is curious about Kerala and would like to visit Kerala which is called God's own country, you are welcome here and yes most of us can read/write/speak English. It includes the bus drivers, cab drivers, grocery store guy or those native villagers who plays chess. Kerala has the highest mobile phone density, the most internet users, excellent healthcare facilities, schools, Ayurvedic facilities, greenery, religious harmony. I can go on.
Kerala Government's tourism site : https://www.keralatourism.org
First the observation and subsequently this assumption, perhaps speaks more about how we let stereotypes cloud our thinking and judgement, and less about the people of the village/country themselves.
I apologise, I should have investigate before writing. Pics made me really assume that only men there play chess. Guess that original poster was right with his complaint then.