“I’m going to teach you a game” said a father holding up a chess board to his five-year-old daughter. Inquisitively she looked up, and saw sixty-four black and white squares laid perfectly across a wooden board. She metamorphically dropped her Barbie doll, pushed aside her teddy bear to one side, and listened to her father more intently than she had ever listened to him before.
She picked up each piece precariously as though instinctively realising that she was under an oath of responsibility. This was the first time she consciously understood the meaning of responsibility (or at least a grasp of it), and that day she learnt the names of all the pieces, and memorised all their moves. Overnight it became her favourite game; but it would be a long time before she would learn how to really play.
For anyone who personally knows me, they will know I’m talking about myself. Since I was little chess has been my favourite game and I’ve played it sometimes to the point of obsession. There’s something about playing chess that grabs my attention and makes me forget all other engagements – university work, birthdays, friends and showers (yes, on the odd occasion I forget to wash!!) would all be forgotten once a game has started. This however, doesn’t mean I’m a professional chess player or that I could even be described as good – far from it! – but I enjoy few things more than a game of chess.
Seeing a chess shop can send me spinning and frothing at the mouth like a raging banshee, so I guess for that reason alone it’s a good job that chess shops elude most shopping streets. But a lack of chess related outlets can be annoying – wanting to buy products or a simple game request usually has to be exacted over the internet – it’s no wonder chess players have a reputation for being introverts!
This frustration doesn’t happen everywhere though; from my travels I’ve learnt a few countries have a very prominent chess scene that would satisfy the utmost chess fanatics. The best place in the world for chess lovers is New York City. You can head over to Washington Square Park or the Chess House in Central Park and practise your Sicilian Defence and Gambit against a wide range of people hailing from all walks of life. Playing the game is a great way to meet new people; it opens you up to friendships that wouldn’t otherwise occur.
Since those early days with my father, I’ve played chess with homeless guys in Santa Barbara, had my ass kicked by a grandmaster in Amsterdam, played speed chess in Philadelphia, checkmated in China, and seen the world’s oldest Chess board in the British Museum. But I still haven’t been to Reykjavik where the Match of the Century was played, and where after years of turbulence, Bobby Fischer made his home up until his death in 2008; nor have I been to Russia to pay my respect to some of history’s greatest players… I’m
hoping deluding myself that one day the ridiculously gorgeous Garry Kasparov will find me 🙂
I love my knights!
A guy I met in a youth hostel weeps as I relish in my victory hehe 😀
Chess Sets: You’re spoilt for choice in Turkey.
Observing the chess moves in Max Euweplein Square, Amsterdam.