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Last night in chess, I goofed and Ben's queen skewered both my rooks. There was nothing I could do to save both of them, so I positioned my bishop to A6.. (damn, I should have taken a picture) .. so that it'd be in position to pressure his king, which hadn't castled. My queen also had open floor to the king. In my offensive haste, I forgot that my king would have to deal with check after he took my first rook, allowing him to take my other rook! (which had just taken out a key pawn of his). I thought the game was done. But my bishop and queen were giving his king such hell. I had dispatched of his key pawn to protect his king, so there was nothing he could do about my bishop. I wasn't able to checkmate him, of course, since he had two rooks and a queen now protecting his king. But despite this immense power, I was being such a nuisance! My pawns and maybe a knight were positioned such that my king was well protected. It was an unconventional game in that he took one of my bishops early in the game to cause stacked pawns. I kept putting him in check. Started moving one of my pawns for another queen. He finally got an opportunity to pressure my bishop out of there, and put me in check with his queen, but my bishop was prepared for this and moved in front of my king to threaten his queen. He was so exacerbated by my bishop at this point and had such a material advantage that he took my bishop with his queen! He failed to take into account that his king was blocking his rook to my advanced pawn's landing square for Queening, and that he would not have enough time to prevent it. He resigned.
It was sheer astonishment and amusement that my bishop could have caused him so much grief that he'd sacrifice his queen to get rid of it--never seen such absurdity in chess before. I've likewise never seen a bishop be so powerful.
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Get a good book that gives you games by the pros and run through them.
Man, that's an awesome idea. I've always been intrigued by chess but was never a competent player. A way to get started is to read some chess books, train with the computer and afterwards just thrust into chess tournaments that might happen? Good thing that real-life tournaments exist; playing anything on the Internet sucks big-time.
Rather than training with the computer, try finding some flesh-and-blood opponents at your local chess club. That should be more fun.
If you've nothing else, then playing a computer is better than nothing, of course. But computers have always made somewhat odd opponents, and this hasn't changed as they have become stronger (they're just odd in a less funny way now). They play in a very different manner from human opponents, and taking on the current engines at full power is a humiliating experience even for grandmasters. Their handicap levels aren't much more satisfying: sometimes they'll chuck a piece away and then resume playing at full power, or things like that. It feels more like being jerked about by a strong human player who is deliberately giving you a few chances.
If a computer is all you have as an opponent, then you could try playing out highly advantageous positions against it, such as technically won endgames. This can be useful training.
Oh, and there's no need to pay for an engine. Some of the best ones are available for free, such as older versions of Rybka, or open source engines such as Stockfish or Robbolito (actually, I find Robbolito a far better analyst than the commercial Rybka 4 - I use these engines on a daily basis in my work).
Hellbent: he just takes your queen with his queen.
Back on move 7, I'd prefer 7...Be6. It develops a piece, maintains the tension (generally speaking a good thing unless there is anything specific to be gained from releasing it), and asks White how well placed his pieces are. White can't open up the f-file without giving up bishop for knight on d5, but this leaves f7 very securely defended and the queens are liable to come off. So Black looks pretty safe. If White plays quietly, then ...Nc6 and ...0-0-0 can come next, and Black can start thinking about playing ...g5.