What About Me

Mar 18, 2016, 7:56 PM |

I was about 12... when my eldest brother taught me the facts of life, and introduced me to the game of chess. When he was sent to England to be with one of our aunts, he sent me a chess set in a small wooden box with two compartments for keeping the chess pieces separate...

Last month (February, 2016) while on his way to vacation in Costa Rica (a country we grew up in), I had the chance to tell him of the comment I made on Chess.com about the fact that he taught me to play the game.

He said he remembers that a chess board was not available to us, at the time, so one was improvised using newspapers. Amazing! He also said he was surprised at how quickly I learned (not to be confused with mastery) the game; and I believe him, because I don't recall ever having struggled to learn the basics.

I did not consider myself beyond average; but because of two challenges I faced after failing second grade:

1) How to cope with the discovery of a hearing impairment after an accident

2) A boy's remark that I would never catch up with him in third grade

I made up my mind to pay attention in school and avoid distractions.

I became so focused in my class that I excelled in every subject, including “gramática" and “dictado" (grammar and dictation). So much so that I not only learned to lipread intuitively, but eventually surpassed my friend (Yes, we enjoyed many adventures together.) and went on to high school while he studied at night to complete the 4th grade. (He was, however, an excellent in athlete... and a defender of the weaker individuals.)

But I also learned to relax, enjoy life, and not take the classroom with me into recess... on the ball ground... or while engaged in extracurricular activities, including music and chess.

The mention of chess in this context may make it seem as if I'd been playing the game quite often but it was rather sporadic.

However, two chess moments stand out in my memory: A fool's mate I tried on a boy during a vacation in Cartago (the same country). A soon as he saw how quickly he'd lost, he ran inside the house to call on a bigger boy who was a more experienced opponent.

The other one was the pleasure I got from beating what I'll call “a chess bully". I would observe this particular guy in the library at Medgar Evers College, in New York, playing very aggressively. I noticed that he was appealing to his opponent's emotions rather than their intellect.

To be continued...