Chess, and The Beautiful Flower

Aug 13, 2010, 12:46 AM |

I taught myself how to play chess. My mother brought a book on the game when I was seven, I lived in rural Africa and she worked as a maid for some white family in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. She used to bring second-hand toys, torn books, that kind of stuff and then one day she brought this book with all these funny things called pawns, knights, bishops, etc. It was not a teach-yourself-chess book, but one that had several openings, King's Indian being one of them. I read the book, deduced some of the rules, used bottle tops as the pieces and a week later I was a chess player. I taught two of my best friends the rules, one of them carved the pieces and soon we had our own chess club of 7-year-olds in rural Rhodesia.

When I went to high school in Harare, Zimbabwe (country had changed names), I was among the three best chess players there. I was among the first members of the University of Zimbabwe Chess Team, I can even lay claim to being one of the founder members. Ten years later I formed the Victoria falls Chess team, but most players work in tourism and have irregular working hours, making a viable chess club impossible to operate. My two sons are mean players, they thrash their mum regularly although I still have to teach my daughter Lubelihle (it means beautiful flower in Zulu/Ndebele/Xhosa) who lives in the rural areas in the same conditions as I did, four decades ago. I plan to buy her a chess set this weekend, take it to her, teach her the rules and see if she can be the next Kasparov, without my help. Her mother and I are divorced and it pains me that she'll grow up without the privileges my other kids are used to, but such is life, you have to take what comes and make the best of it.

I love my daughter, I love chess, I hope my love for the two will bring us closer together and that one day Luba will look at her chess set and think of her dad with kindness, rather than hate.