Saturday, 15 October 2011

My first steps in chess

 by Junta

The other day, we had guests over for dinner, and one of them was a 6-year old boy. There was some time until the meal, and I would usually push the responsibility of playing with young children on to my sister, but as she was busy, I had to face up to the giant task myself.

He wanted to learn how to play chess. Slightly reluctant at first, having never taught the absolutely basic rules to anyone as long as I can remember, it was an enjoyable 15 minutes or so, playing a game with him while teaching how the pieces move, capturing, checking, getting out of check, and checkmate.

Answering each of his careful, oblivious moves with a lightning-fast bang, I crushed the child's ego with 4.Qxf7#.

Just kidding.

After several moves, his dark-squared bishop gave a check on b4, and with some hints and encouragement, in the grasp of the little fingers, the wooden piece zoomed diagonally backwards and forwards, munching a large part of my army. As he finally got a rook out on the open e-file behind his queen, I moved my queen's rook to the undefended e1-square, next to my king on f1.

...Qxe1#, the first ever checkmate in the boy's life.
Jumping up and down on the sofa, he shouted in excitement and joy: "I won I won I won!!" He wanted another game, but it was time for dinner.

Later, I became curious about what my forgotten, first steps in chess were like.
My father explained: at first, he was teaching my sister when I was 4 or 5 - asking me if I wanted to learn also, my answer would be a no. A year or two later, the curiosity got the better of me this time, and I took up the game.

From that day on, chess became a big part of my life. Each night, after dinner, I would challenge my father to another game. For weeks and weeks, I would lose every game, but as 6 weeks or so had passed, the losses were alternating with wins. Some time later, I would win all the games.

It was time to look for more opponents. In 1999, I joined my first junior chess club (incidentally, I have been coaching at the club with the same name for some years now), and gained my first ACF rating of 315. 12 years later, and here I am.

I'm sure many have wondered: what would my life have been like without chess?

I must finish this post with the words of a world champion, from
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal (2009 Reprint, Everyman Chess).

"... But about my first game. When one of us first plays chess, he is like a man who has caught a dose of microbes of, say, Hong Kong 'flu. Such a man walks along the street, and he does not yet know that he is ill. He is healthy, he feels fine, but the microbes are doing their work. Something similar, though less harmful, occurs in chess. ... You lose the first game. But at some time, if your father or elder brother or simply an old friend wants to be kind to you, then you win, and as a result feel very proud of yourself. A few days pass, and suddenly you involuntarily begin to sense that, without chess, there is something missing in your life. Then you may rejoice: you belong to that group of people without a natural immunity to the chess disease..."

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