I learned to play chess during the Christmas holiday, 1966 and was quickly hooked! I play rated tournament chess for seven years. My highest rating was just north of 2000 though I quickly fell back to the low 1900s. That was 1973 and I haven't played competitively since. I've always suspected that my affection for hypermodern openings kept me from attaining master level strength. Still, my local chess hero Master Bob Wendling, once said to me, "You play the opening like Botvinnik. Too bad you play the middlegame and the endgame like <ParisAttack>!" But, I had fun!
My enduring passion has been chess literature. My first buy was from the famous bookseller, Al Buschke. I bought Sokolsky's 1. b4, Trifunovic's Grunfelda, Bogolyubov's 1.d4 and a lovely early edition of Bilguer's Handbuch all for the princely sum of $23.00. After selling off 1700 foreign books and periodicals a few years back I have approximately 6000 books in my collection.
The high points of my chess life: Beating a Senior Master (as white, Closed Sicilian), drawing with a Senior Master after having a forced mate-in-five (as black, Najdorf Bednarski-Browne variation), beating a former Wyoming champion with 1. e4, e5; 2. Nf3, Nc6; 3. Bd3?!, beating a three time Colorado champion with the Gurgenidze Robatsch, meeting Bobby Fischer for all of five minutes when he borrowed three of my books for his match with Larsen, a wonderful telephone conversation with Hans Kmoch, interviewing Lajos Portisch and of course the visits in New York with the delightful and knowledgeable Al Buschke. I suppose the low points were losing the state Junior championship twice in the last round and finally accepting that I would never get very good at the game.
Openings have always been of interest, with emphasis on hypermodern sorties. I also enjoy studying and identifying styles of the top players of today and yesterday. I feel I've learned the most from Botvinnik (find a target early and drill), Keres (bring your pieces to better and better squares) and Gligoric (its the center, stupid!). Other favorite players: Morphy, Pillsbury, Nimzovitch, Flohr, Boleslavsky, Stein, Petrosian, Fischer, Tal, Karpov and Mamedyarov.
Generally, I think new players learn the most from the 'transparent' GMs - Morphy, Pillsbury, Tarrasch, Fine, Reshevsky, Botvinnik, Keres, Gligoric, Spassky and are wise to initially avoid Nimzovitch, Capablanca and Fischer (deceptive simplicity), Tal, Petrosian and Kasparov. But when I taught chess years ago, no one played a game - theirs or anyone elses - until they could demonstrate up to an efficient K + B + B v K mate. The endgame has all the basic chess skills and ingredients in digestible form.
I am also interested in the skills necessary to be a superior (>2400) chess player. I believe the core native skill is how the chess geometry is visualized and manipulated in the brain - and that to a very large degree 'you either have it, or you don't.'
I rank the Best of All Time: 1) Fischer, 2) Lasker, 3) Capablanca, 4) Karpov, 5) Kasparov, 6) Alekhine, 7) Botvinnik, 8) Tal, 9) Rubinstein, 10) Petrosian. Of course such lists are extremely subjective.
I've concluded classical chess is in its winter years though at 63 I am also; it won't matter much to me what the game's status is in 20 years. I do not think 960 or other varietals - even were they accepted - could stay Moore's Law and increasingly sophisticated heuristic algorithms such as Monte Carlo sampling.
All in all, Chess has been a wonderful lifelong friend.