Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Early Days with Chess

I think I learned to play chess from a book in 5th grade. Each week Mrs. Sawyer would take the entire class to the school library and our assignment was to find a book to read and enjoy. I have no idea what the title of the book was or who wrote it – but it must have been a pretty good book for me to learn the rules of chess using only it to help.

I also remember getting my very own first chess book soon after - I think I was in the sixth grade at the time. My parents would let us pick out our own Christmas gifts at the large and distant department store 30 miles from our small home town. There I found “The Complete Chess Course" by Fred Reinfeld. Wow - over 700 pages of chess goodness.

Finding someone to play was my biggest problem. No one in my family played. It wasn’t until a few years later in about 8th or 9th grade that I learned my best friend knew how to play chess too! From then on we played when we could – mostly during lunch hour (and if we could sneak it in – even during class time). We even occasionally played chess over the telephone calling out our moves using descriptive notation. I think I won the majority of our games – my secret weapon being some of the advice good old Fred gave me in that huge tome of chess wisdom. I never did get more than half way through that book – there was just so much there!

I still remember to this day how in Orchestra class my friend and I set up a chess set (my treasured “Cardinal” folding magnetic chess set - which I still own to this day) on the chair between us so we could play. The music teacher had a terrible habit of lecturing nearly the whole class period instead of having us play our instruments. So why not take advantage of all this wasted time with a game of chess? Oh my god, did the sparks fly when he spied us blissfully playing chess and not at all paying attention to him! Just another example, I am sure, of how we all have suffered anguish and pain at one time or another for love of the game of chess!

Later in high school I met others kids who played chess and I would play during lunch hour with them too. I even played several teachers who had an interest in chess – even beating them occasionally. Sadly our school had no chess club – and the idea of even having a chess club never occurred to any of us! After high school I really had no one to play chess with. It wasn’t until my last two years of college that I found an opportunity to play chess again. But that’s a story for another post…

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