Daikusan, I don't get to play as much as I once used to, and I miss that. I have played for decades, if I participated in the official rankings, I'd end up somewhere around 1700-1800, but those numbers are suspect. I once played a master five games in a row, I won two of them, including the last one we played (he was not amused), thinking I was hot stuff after those games, I played a six year old boy a couple weeks later who beat me like I didn't know what the name of the game was!
I learned from my father, but the person that I learned the most from about the game, was a homeless man I met in Ft. Meyer's, Florida. I did mall shows there and when he knew I was in town, he'd show up to the mall hours before it opened and we played game after game after game after game, he was an ex-Central Park player in NYC, and he knew how to teach! He added hundreds of points to my rating, it was because of him that i beat that Chess Master 2 out of 5 games. My game has never been as good before or since those days with him and never will be.
I do think you have to know how to play to be able to design. Not so critical in making Staunton sets because everybody in the world is familiar with that design, but it's essential when you go off the deep end with custom themed sets as I try to do. As strange and obnoxious as some of my designs are, there's not one you couldn't sit down at, study them for a minute and start playing. The "hard" part about playing them isn't their design, the hard part is not letting your mind wander as the game unfolds. Depending on where the pieces are on the board, they tell a story associated with the theme with the characters, that story is different with every game because every game is different. And you can believe that when I do play my friends on my sets I take EVERY advantage of that fact.
I do sell my sets, I placed a link in the classifieds here to my main gallery site, but that's not why I joined here. I joined this site for the same reasons I join any woodworking site and that's to learn for sure, but the main reason is to just marvel and gawk at the so many ways woodworkers express themselves as they do what they do. Signing in to sites like this feels like coming home, with all the garbage and negativity going on in the outside world, its so nice to see and talk to people who share common interests and are willing to share and encourage with others too, and like I said, I am continually amazed by the talent and creativity and thoughts and ideas and projects that people come up with. Not only is it awesome, and it is, it re-charges my batteries instantly!
Thanks again for all the wonderful comments and many tips I've received from the forum here!
Chess Set Carver