Since my first stroke (I have had 2), I’ve been struggling to get my brain out of a thick fog that I feel every single day. I read daily and subscribe to Luminosity.com for their brain puzzles and games. I play crossword puzzles. Yet, I still have that numb, deer-in-headlights sensation. It feels like I just took a serious pummeling with a heavy pillow – and a major league baseball player was holding the pillow. I am not in any pain, but my brain feels like it’s wrapped in heavy cotton.
I’ve recently found an effective and fun brain therapy: The Game of Chess.
I haven’t played chess since I was a child. I chose to take it up again specifically for the purpose of mental therapy. Chess really forces me to work my brain, especially my memory. It helps with my concentration, and exercises whichever part of the brain that is responsible for calculations and strategy. I’ve been playing again for just a few months and have experienced a dramatic improvement in all of the above. Plus, it’s fun! It’s become a daily ritual for me now. A ritual that I look forward to.
The game of Chess is both simple to learn and impossible for all but a very few people on Earth to master. Memorizing the types of moves that each individual piece is allowed to make, and learning the rules of the game is quite simple. Where it gets complicated is putting all that together into a winning strategy. The variations in the sequence of possible moves is virtually unlimited. That’s what makes the game a challenge, and so much fun.
If you don’t currently play the game, there’s an easy way to get started. I joined Chess.com a couple months ago. You can watch excellent training videos and live games on the site. You can play others from anywhere on the planet from your computer or mobile device. You can even play Chess.com’s computer until you’re ready for a real game, or just prefer to go it alone. There’s even a public bulletin board/forum where you can interact with other players Their most expensive membership package is $99 per year. Their cheapest is $29 per year, but for that price, you don’t get access to the excellent training program. You can also join for free and get limited access.
You may also want to pick up a cheap chessboard. I got this one on Amazon and it is great. It is a heavy-duty vinyl roll-up with annotations (A – G, 1 – 8) in the margins. If you’re not a chess player, these are needed while you learn the game so that you can quickly identify and communicate the geographic locations of each piece on the board. This board is the same type used by chess players worldwide. It is ubiquitous wherever you find people playing in public. When you’re done you just roll it up. The chess pieces are sturdy plastic and heavily-weighted so they stay in place.
I recommend this handy bag to store your chess set and pieces. It’s made especially for roll-up vinyl chess boards and holds all of the chess pieces easily. Designed to be portable. Get outside and play. Set up at a park or other public place and you’ll find volunteers quite readily.
There are literally thousands of books on playing chess and chess strategy. I picked up this book after reading a review on one of the chess sites on the web. It’s written for beginners and it is easy to understand. If you haven’t ever played the game this is a very good place to start. Very well-written.
The game of Chess has been played for hundreds of years, and because tournament rules require players to record every single move made, you can buy a book that contains the playing record of games from long ago. I use game books in front of the chessboard. Since my first stroke, I usually buy books on Kindle, since they’re cheaper and easier to read, with one hand and arm paralyzed. Not so with chess books. I buy paperbacks that I can leave open and study the diagrams of chessboards and pieces. Each game analysis is spread out over multiple pages, as are the graphics. Ebooks aren’t optimal for this.
Anyway, I move the pieces the same way the Masters did (move by move), using the notations and graphics recorded in the book of games. I play both sides of the game, black and white, studying their decisions as they played their opponents. I liken this to playing solitaire. It’s very instructional. I chose this book by Bobby Fischer, who was a legend while he was alive, and is still considered by many to be possibly the greatest player ever.
Chess is both challenging and fun. It’s excellent brain therapy and it’s free once you get your chessboard. I highly recommend it for clearing brain fog. Don’t give up if you find it difficult with “Stroke Brain.” I could barely concentrate long enough to finish a single game. Now I play several games in a row. What began as therapy has become something of a hobby. A fun hobby at that!
Here are the Amazon links for my recommended purchases:
- Tournament Chess Set with Heavyweight Game Pieces, Durable Chess Board and Strategy Guide, $29.99 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2EXMSpd
- Quiver Chess Bag – Assorted Colors, $9.95 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2H6Dxfr
- Play Winning Chess, by Yasser Seirawan, (Paperback), $19.31 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2H5YvLD
- My 60 Memorable Games: chess tactics, chess strategies with Bobby Fischer, (Paperback), $17.78 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ECDdqB