My father unfortunately died far too young at only 49. However, he was a great teacher, and when I was about 8 or 9 he taught me how to play Chess.
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Most early evenings we would sit opposite each other at the chessboard after I had finished playing outside. Internet, together with mobile phones and iPads pinging and buzzing were a thing of the future, and there were no distractions. Mum liked to read, we didn’t have a landline phone, and the TV stayed off unless there was something interesting to watch.
Over a period of time I became rather better at planning my next move on the board. I never did manage to win any game against my father though, despite Mum telling Dad to let me win sometimes so that I wouldn’t want to give up. It didn’t occur to me to give up, because I always thought that someday I would beat him.
He taught me well enough for me to beat my uncle when I was 12. Dad was as proud as proud could be, although my uncle was somewhat less enthusiastic. This spurred me on to challenge Dad again and again, but with just the same disappointing results.
I was pleased to discover that my future husband-to-be also played Chess. After beating Sam at least 5 times in succession, he refused to play against me any more. Likewise both our sons refused as well, when they became teenagers; it was just too embarrassing to be beaten by a girl. Hey ho, it was all down to challenging the computer; I couldn’t win at all on the higher level, but managed a few victories on the less cerebral ones.
Dear old Dad. Every time I see a chessboard I think of him. I have a chess game on my iPad now, and if I get stuck I often think of what kind of move Dad might have made. I can even hear him in my inner ear telling me to ‘take that rook’ or ‘protect your king’. I’ve lost track of our old board and Chess pieces; I still remember the worn wooden box with its many scratches that we stacked the pieces in when it was time for my bath and bed. It had a special smell that made me think of my childhood and my dad. I think one of my sons might have it now, or possibly it might be right at the back of our loft.
Chess should be on the national curriculum for schoolchildren. It causes children to sit still and concentrate the mind, and it encourages lateral thinking. We could do with more chess-playing youngsters!