“My friend… told me that you are a chess enthusiast”
These days we are interviewing students for the fall Coop term positions in engineering. They are doing their best, like any of us, to have a resume and cover letter that gives them a leg up on the competition. A few of them mention chess in various ways. The most basic one is to list it under hobbies. They do that to highlight their inclination to be analytical, practice critical thinking, as well as planning. Any discussion we have about it does not go into more chess related details.
Other candidates include their chess knowledge and experience if they have any. It could be either from their school chess club participation, or more often from online play. Talking with these applicants could lead to interesting discussions. They share with confidence what they know, expecting a common reaction from us. This is where I start going deeper into details. I have not yet interviewed a student that has played in tournaments sanctioned by our national federation. This is a bit surprising since engineering as a profession suits those who like playing chess.
Last week we interviewed a mechatronics student that had listed in his resume a project he worked on called “Chess Robotic Manipulator“. The project scope was to design a robotic manipulator that simulates the first 10 moves of a chess game featuring the Queen’s Gambit opening. You have to agree that it includes a couple of very specific details, and I wanted to know more about it. The discussion went along like this:
- My first question was: “Why did you decide to use 10 moves, and not more or less?”
The answer was well thought and perfectly acceptable. I could tell it was not picked randomly. He said they picked 10 moves to test the endurance, and the range in motion of the robot arm from short to long moves.
- My second question was: “Why did you pick the Queen’s Gambit and not another opening?”
His answer was the most expected one. They heard about the series, and that made it interesting enough to be picked. Also, it did not surprise me to hear they did not watch it.
Normally the chess portion of the interview stops here. However, this time the student continued:
“My friend, who recommended me and works with you right now, told me you are a chess enthusiast”
Me: “Chess enthusiast?“. Imagine here Michael Jordan saying “Baldie?” in the classic movie Space Jam. Both myself and my colleagues started laughing.
The student immediately realized he said something he was not supposed to: “I mean, I am not sure what he said. It was something about you knowing chess. What is your level? It cannot be master, right?”
At this point we all forgot about the interview. It was a typical laughing out loud moment. After all was clarified and the interview ended, we continued the good laugh in the office with his friend Livingston. Of course he owes me one for graciously describing me as a chess enthusiast.
It is nice to see the younger generation interested in chess. Not everyone needs to become a professional chess player. However, chess will forever provide opportunities to enhance our skills that you could use at any time. There is nothing wrong with being a chess enthusiast. It is just funny to be one in certain situations. Beth Harmon is a chess enthusiast as well, no? She said best: “It’s an entire world of just 64 squares“. If you don’t believe it, go and see the series.