For love of the game
I love the game of chess. I started playing chess over 26 years ago. In junior high and high school, I played very regularly. But for the last number of years I've played only sporadically.
The fact that I've played for so many years does not mean I'm a strong player by any stretch of the imagination. When it comes to playing against the average person who knows the rules along with some basic strategy and tactics, I would probably win just about every game. But when we start talking about regular chess club attendees, my winning percentage starts dropping off dramatically. That's ok. I don't play because I win — I win because I play. Ok, so that's not exactly true. I play. Sure, I win because I enjoy playing. But I do not win games terribly often. In my last tournament, I believe that I lost more games than I won. My USCF rating dropped from 1475 to 1390. But I sure had a good time.
Focus, focus, focus
One reaon I like the game so much is because it does a very interesting thing to my brain: it quiets it down. That's not to say that my brain slows down; but rather it doesn't do as much multitasking. When I'm playing chess, I don't really think about anything else. My head isn't racing through a list of work-related things, and it's not worrying about personal things. It's focused almost exclusively on how to manage the game. It's oddly relaxing up to a point. But on a tournament day, after three 2+ hour games, it's also mentally exhausting.