Ain’t no shame in this game

Eric Miranda

Photo by Ayah Katherine Young

Think back to the days prior to the GameCube, beyond the Atari and straight into your grandparents’ hall closet, where classic board games lurk. Eric Miranda, founder and president of the new Sacramento City College (SCC) Chess Club, is bringing those games out of the closet and onto the table in an effort to resurrect traditional strategy games in a college environment. And why not? Studies have shown that active mental stimulation through concentration in games is not only fun but also can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. So, who is the man behind the college’s chess team? A smarty-pants who gets the job done, that’s who.

Why did you start this club on campus?

Primarily because the campus didn’t really have one. It was always something I wanted to do before I left this college. I’d like to think of it as my one contribution. Another reason why I started it is because there was a “game club” on campus called SAGA, which stood for SCC Anime and Game Association. It’s all about watching Japanese animation and playing video games, so this club is giving rise to the lost integrity of board games.

Is chess the only game you play?

No, we are going to open up to a couple other games, but we are going to stick with classics. No Dungeons & Dragons. We want to keep away from any kind of role-playing and stick with games like checkers, chess, Chinese checkers and go. That might include Mastermind, too, but I’m not sure if that can be considered a classic. It is in my book.

You play chess, which is a war-tactic game. Does this mean that you are pro-war?

Am I pro-war? A game of chess might do George Bush and Saddam Hussein some good, but I am in no way pro-violence in any form. I like to keep it to the board. You know? And I think that I speak for every officer and member that I know of when I say that we are definitely not pro-war because we like chess.

What are your feelings about misogyny in regard to chess—you know, the king and the queen?

I think it’s kind of appropriate, especially for the time in which chess was created. Behind every great man, there is a great woman, and that’s the queen. But she’s not the most valuable piece on the board; that’s the pawn. It’s actually kind of funny that the king can only move one space at a time in any direction, but the queen can go anywhere she wants. I think it says a lot, especially about modern-day society.

Why are there so few woman chess masters?

I’ll have to admit that there aren’t many woman champions, but why are women also less active in science and mathematics? I think it’s mostly about childhood exposure. But also, I think that it’s a trend that’s going out of style really fast. There are still a lot of old men chess players left over, but I think they’re tapering out.

In 1999, a 4-year-old joined the national chess team. How long have you been playing chess?

I’ve been playing since I was about 5, but I’m sure I’m nowhere as good as this child because they probably dedicate every waking hour they have to chess. I think that we are all born with some natural aptitude, and some are born with a natural aptitude for discerning patterns, and that’s essentially all that chess is. So, some people pick up on it, and if that’s nurtured, maybe by their parents, or sparked by a family member’s love for chess, they will have the opportunity to have that side of themselves developed. I’m sure that that 4-year-old probably had some strong encouragement.

Chess kind of has a reputation as being a dorky game. Do you think it’s more of a hip game to play these days?

I think its reputation has been created by all the dorks that have participated in it in the past. I think that the activity itself is not dorky. Perhaps people just have a misconception about it. I know many people whom I consider “hip” who play chess regularly.

How can people learn more about chess?

Anyone who is a student at SCC can, of course, come and “check us out.” (That’s our slogan.) And anyone who’s not a student but maybe is interested in chess can go to any of several online chess sites.

Play an active role in your child’s interest in the game. Try to encourage it because it’s an important art, like jazz, that needs to be kept alive and supported. Tell your friends about it and get them interested, too.