My Most Epic Chess Year. Ever!

My Most Epic Chess Year. Ever!

| 44

Ever since I had my first child eight years ago, most of the new friends I made were mommy friends. Together, we built sand castles in the sandbox with our little off-springs; exchanged cookie recipes, agonized over our babies’ unexplained rashes, and laughed at our mommy-brain stories. Had somebody told me then that in 2022, most of my new friends would be younger lads, I would laugh rolling my eyes. And had somebody told me I would have a shot at my “unfinished chess business”, get a chess coach, read an article about myself in The Globe and Mail, and play a Super GM, I would simply not believe them. By then, chess had become just a distant memory. Another lifetime. But all of this happened!

Pushing Myself

It all began early this year with My OTB Chess Adventures With Strangers. The “adventures” continued with Alex. This is when I got the idea of pushing myself a little and playing chess past my wee hours. If I could caption one of our meet-ups, it would be this:

Caption: One evening. One opponent. Three different venues. Kicked out of all of them due to night closures.

So, if I want to continue competing in tournaments, where a game can easily go past 11 pm, I need to work on my stamina. Gotta keep up with the younger crowd!

And while I thought I got over all the awkwardness of meeting up with strangers for chess, came along …

The Incredible Hulk

A few months ago, my friend suggested I play chess with her friend. “He’s probably your level and is super nice,” she said. “My-level-and-super-nice, I’d play any day!” I replied.

I arrived at the designated library, early as usual, and waited. Not nervous at all. Then, suddenly, I saw this bright light and out of nowhere descended this human version of the Incredible Hulk. I kid you not! The guy was so ripped, the whole time we played chess I was so worried that if he accidentally flexes his muscles, his tight T-shirt would rip, revealing the rest!

Photo credit: Andre Taissin | Unsplash

And then what would I do?? Close my eyes? Run? Have a sneak peek?

The Hulk was indeed an excellent player. Still, I managed to win a few games. Phew! We ended our meet-up with “nice to meet you” and I ran …

I ran home that evening through the busy streets and hilly ravines that lay out our city – hop, hop, hop! When I got home - I hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed my husband and told him how much I love him and that if every chess player looked like the Hulk, I would be willing to give up chess forever!

The Super GM

And then I “ran” into Hikaru! Twice. Ok, I didn’t “run” into him. A little birdy told me he was visiting Toronto so I came out to play.

Caption: Playing blitz with Hikaru.

My game was so terrible against him that I won’t even discuss it. 

**UPDATE** I ended up discussing it after all, in the subsequent blog - My Five Deadly Mistakes Against Hikaru. This game, along with my misery, was shared on Hikaru's channel, so I had to address it

The Unfinished Business

While playing all this OTB chess and meeting new people, I remembered that I always wanted to do this “one thing” with chess, but never did. And as years wore on, that “one thing” became just an unrealistic dream. This year, however, I realized that I have a shot at it again!

No, it’s not getting a title, or writing a chess book (although that’s on the menu). It’s something else. And when I achieve it (if I ever will) watch out for the Blog Of The Century!!

But to get “there”, I need a little help…

Not Solo No More

And so, for the first time ever, I got myself a (titled!) coach! I reached out to Fanny just as hurricane Ian passed Cuba last September and Cuba lost its electricity. Fanny chatted with me on his last remaining 9% battery. We connected instantly. He’s got two kids similar age to mine, so he “gets” me. I lived in a communist country, so I “get” him. And we are both crazy about chess.

Right off the bat, he told me he’d always be there for me, to satisfy aaaall of my chess needs, as a coach and as a friend! I don’t think he realized what he got himself into! Ha-ha. And then … we disconnected.

Fanny, noooo!!

Luckily, the electricity was restored within a few days and we were back on track.

I never realized how amazing it is to have this kind of support in your chess journey! This might just be the beginning of another beautiful chess friendship!

Family Matters

But the journey will be long and slow.

I was so excited when last September rolled around. Having had home-schooled my two kids through the entire pandemic, I was looking forward to them going back to school. Senior kindergarten and grade 3. I fantasized about having a whooping 9am – 3pm to myself, before eventually returning back to work. In my fantasy, after completing all the house chores, I would read, write, bike, hike, drink tea with my stay-home-mommy friends, go to beauty salons, and, of course, play A TON of chess! 

Didn’t happen.

My five-year-old quickly put her foot down and negotiated two-hour days at the kindergarten. I don’t blame her. The girl can read in 3 languages, while the SK curriculum teaches the A, B, and C’s. So, my imagined 6-hour daily “freedom” got truncated to two. Just enough for a workout and some liiiittle chess. That is, if I manage to do all the endless dishes, and laundry, and cleaning, and organizing, and groceries, and errands, and aaaaaAAAaa …

Oh well.

I look forward to another year of creative stimulation and bonding with my daughter through music, theater, chess, foreign literature etc, etc … before the school system fully whisks her awaaaay during those 9 – 3pm hours…

A Quick Side-Note On Writing

Speaking of creativity. Last year I got five of my articles/stories published on various platforms. This year, I didn’t even attempt to write one! Put all my creative writing on hold … for chess. But someone wrote one about me! Ok, not “someone”. One of Canada’s best journalists – Cecil Rosner!

Made me smile …

Parting Remarks

It’s undeniable, now, that whenever I play chess, magic follows me. Amazing things happen and I feel so uplifted. I’m back to playing it, loving it, studying it, having fun with it. It enriches my life, adding colours, substance, challenge, and growth. I adore my new friendships, even if it’s just “chess friendships.” Ah, chess or not, but I got to know all these young lads, and their ambitions, and stressors, and triumphs, and back pains, and girl troubles, etc, etc … A whole new old world!

And the best part of it all is that one day when I’m 70, these guys will be in their 50s/60s (and hopefully still kicking). So, I will always have friends to play chess with, no matter what! 

Former Canadian Girls Chess Champion (1999 tied for 1st, 2001 1st place)

Busy mom of two

Blogger and chess addict happy.png