Introduction: How it all began
It all had to start somewhere after all, doesn't it?
I don't remember exactly when I learned the rules of the game, but I do remember playing a few times against my dad early in grade school, and losing rather easily (when I got better, later on, he as well as my brother, stopped playing me). As I was coming up into High School, I was very undisciplined and unfocused, so I was always getting into trouble and my grades were not that good.
A quick, but important side note. Overall, I have to say that, outside of discovering chess, I absolutely hated that part of my life. I don't feel like I graduated from High School so much as survived it. As I have begun this archive project, I have been reminded of many of the things I disliked so much about that time in my life. My college years, and beyond, were so much more enjoyable. I do find it funny that, as I joined some social media sites, I will occasionally get friened by someone from that time in my life. As harsh as this may sound, I am so tempted to tell them, we didn't like each other then, why would you want to have anything to do with me now. I haven't even been (nor do I desire to go) to any of the reunions either. Today, it's not so much that I'm mad with these people, because I'm really not. I just don't see a need to connect with them.
Anyway, my first year at Smithfield Selma High, I ran into a few students who regularly played in my Study Hall. I started joining in and playing with them. They were, certainly by my standards at the time, very good players and I would lose repeatedly to all of them. Not long after that, I also found a few students who would hang out in one of the classrooms during lunch and play with one of the teachers. So, I found myself playing, usually twice a day, most every day. Also, even though I didn't realize it at the time, finding something to be passionate about helped to solve my other scholastic problems. Although I enjoyed playing, the constant losing was getting pretty old. I ended up finding ONE book on chess in the schools library and I think I had that book checked out for most of the year. I don't recall the name of the book, but I recall it was a very good basic openings and strategy book. I didn't start winning immediately, but over time, I could see my games getting closer and closer. I also started playing at the Johnston County Chess Club. They met in an office supply store in down town Smithfield one night a week. It was a minor step up for me as the adults in the club were slightly better (although still amateurs by USCF standards) than my classmates.
That spring, the school had their tournament. It was a 3 game match single elimination format including teachers and students. There were 17 entries and since I was regarded as one of the "worst 2" I had to play for the final spot. I don't think they took into account the progress I had made during the year though and I ended up breezing through the 'play-in' round. My 1st round opponent would be the best of my Study Hall opponents. Someone I had never even come close to beating...at least not until now. All 3 of the games were close and I ended up winning the 1st and 3rd, much to his displeasure. I did lose the following round to one of the teachers, but my 1st round upset was a major statement and by the time the tournament rolled around the following year, I had become one of the three dominant players in the school. One was the Political Science teacher and the other was a friend of mine (more on that later). From that point forward, on the rare occasions when I lost within the school, it was to one of the other two.
While I don't have any of my games from that first year, I do have some interesting games from my High School days. This first one was a big step forward for me and one of the biggest examples of how chess helped to turn my life around. As a kid, my father had told me never to fight. While he meant well, the unintended consequences of that demand was that it made me a prime target for bullies. Throughout Elementary school, this was not really a problem. I was a bit bigger for my age at that time and I would just ignore it until I got fed up enough, then unleash my wrath on the offending party and just accept the inevitable fallout for my disobedience. Problem was, by Middle School, most of the other kids and especially those who would be bullies, had caught up and passed me size wise. Even still, there was only one kid who ever truly tormented me throughout those years, but man did he make my life hell. It was a few years later, during lunch one day, I remember I had gone into the library for something and noticed a group in the AV room playing chess. Naturally, I was drawn toward it and asked to join in before I realized that this particular person was among them. And of course, as you might expect, we ended up playing a game. I only have a vague memory of this event (and it was completely lost to me short of finding the game score) but I can only imagine the dread of having to sit across from this person and play against them. I might never have been able to best him in the school yard, but I was definitely stronger on the chess board.
These next two games were from our yearly, in school, tournaments. The first is against another friend of mine. He was a more solid player than most of the other kids in the school and I think he had some real potential, but he never took the game seriously enough. He was also our D&D GM, and much to the group's displeasure, he didn't take that too seriously either...it did make for some funny and interesting gaming sessions though. The second was against a foreign exchange student. I remember that year, there were a few students that actually approached me about it and warned me that "He REALLY knows how to play chess". In this game, he did, in fact, demonstrated that he was very much my equal, if not better. It was only for a late game blunder that I managed to survive this one.
There are two more games that I found from my earlier days in the Jhonston County Chess Club.