I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm going to be playing in a chess tournament this Saturday. One of the members of Marga's parents' social club, the Extremadura Cultural Center, is organizing a chess tournament on December 23. When they were looking for participants, my name somehow came up, and the last time I was there, I was introduced to the organizer and offered a place in the tournament. I have no idea if it's some kind of team competition against another social club or if it's just intraclub, or what. We'll see...
I also have no idea about the level of competition. I can beat most beginners, but I don't stand a chance against anyone that plays regularly in tournaments. The guy did ask me if I was familiar with playing with a clock and if I was ranked in the States, so I might lose pretty fast.
The word for "chess" in Spanish is "ajedrez" (ah-hey-dreth), which is pretty clear evidence of its Arab origin to Europe. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that "checkmate" is "jaque mate" (ha-kay ma-tay), which comes from an Arabic phrase, which came from a Persian phrase meaning "The king is dead".
I've been practicing against my computer. The chess game that comes bundled with Mac OS X (we Mac folk are too intellectual for solitaire) has changed since I last played it. When OS X first came out, I couldn't even come close to beating the chess game at the easiest setting. No chance whatsoever. But now, it makes all kinds of mate-inviting errors on the easiest level, and I can even beat it about half the time at the hardest level! They have definitely made the game a lot more fun for a player of my caliber. I guess they figure that someone better than me that wants to be challenged, or just can't stand the 3D-only view, will actually know enough to go download GNU Chess.
Who knows? I might win it all, or I might lose in the first round. At the very least, it will be an exciting new experience. That's good enough for me.