If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can travel back to 1979 – the year I was first exposed to an exciting new game where unique pieces were moved around on a checkerboard. The game was called chess. I can still hear the plinks of those hollow pieces being poured onto a table top. I can still feel the flimsy red-and-black boards being unfolded. I was in eighth grade and there was a special hour of the school day that I looked forward to. Activity period was the time we put away our books and engaged in an activity for pure fun. There were several choices for us: string art, paint-by-numbers and rock-sculptures were a few I can remember. But there was one activity that really struck a chord with me – Chess. The thought that I could control powerful pieces that could zip across the board to capture enemy pieces thrilled me! For me, the choice was obvious – Chess it was! And so began a life-long journey, attempting to master this classic game.
Jerry Hoffmann and Chuck Everett, my two closest friends, were just as eager to sign up for Chess as I was. We started our understanding of the game from scratch. During that hour, we learned how the pieces moved and the rules of checkmating the King. Nothing was more glorious or magical than the joy of playing during those first few weeks of activity period. We were all equally-matched too, no one knew who would win – it was truly “anyone’s game.” I’m sure it was painful for any decent player to look over our shoulders while we displayed all the chess-playing-strategies our eighth-grade minds could muster. Onlookers would have a difficult time biting their tongues and remaining silent while we made blunder after blunder in our struggle to victory. What fun days those were! There was nothing like it!
Well, I’m no longer a 13-year-old boy with only a novice understanding of the game. Thirty-seven years later, I still enjoy the game with the same level of excitement that first hooked me. As a parent, I also had the wonderful experience of teaching my own son to play. We started when he was 12. He’s now 17, and dominates the game when we play. His skills are remarkable for his short history with the game.
There is always something special about quality time between a father and his son. Usually that involves doing something both are passionate about. With my Dad, that pastime was fishing. For others it might involve hunting or camping, or perhaps working on a car engine. For me and my son – well – we share time together by setting up a board, pouring a hot cup of coffee, and just talking about what’s going on in our lives … and all this while enjoying some friendly competition that involves strategic ideas with pieces dancing across squares over a timeless game – the game of chess.
“Hey Justin …
What are you up to right now?
Do you have a little time son?
How about a nice game of Chess?”