Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cute Chess Article From Webmaster's Birthplace

As some of you may know, I've included a widget on this site which offers up interesting chess articles from time to time (see the right column towards the bottom of this page). Sometimes the pieces are merely references to chess metaphors, but often they deal with the world of our favorite board game.

Tonight I noticed a fun article penned not by a chess expert or aficionado, but that beloved species: the chess mom. And for a bonus, it's an article from the city of my birth, back east. Thanks to contributor Lisa Nee, who captured a humorous slice of life at an otherwise tense scholastic tournament:

OK, I’ll fess up right now. There was a time when I did not know a pawn from a piece of pasta.

I used to think “checkmate” was how an Aussie asked for the bill.

Even so, by a strange twist of fate, I have become a chess mom.  Like soccer moms or dance moms, chess moms cart kids around to events that dominate the weekends.  Still, chess is not much of a spectator sport. In fact, at the rated tournaments parents are not allowed in the room. 

The only tournament I really enjoy is the unrated State Scholastic tournament held in Hartford every year. Because it is unrated the rules are different. Competitors play only within their own grade, in one huge room. Parents line the outer margins chugging coffee, pretending to be more interested in reading the paper than their kid’s performance.

On this day a year ago, I witnessed the best-played game I believe I will ever see.

Because there are so many matches being played simultaneously there are also fewer trained monitors.  When a game is done the winner raises his or her hand and a qualified adult comes to the board and registers the result. 

Chess is one of those strange games of strategy where you can win even if you haven’t. If your opponent says checkmate, it is up to you to prove you are not out of moves. If you agree you are in checkmate, game done. You lose. This is where youthful human nature can sometimes be the most powerful player in the room.

At this tournament a year ago, I was sitting at a table with a bunch of kindergarten and first grade parents. Moms and dads were coming back with stories of their daughters giving into a draw when it was not necessary, agreeing to a checkmate without investigation, and bowing to an opponent who was effectively brow beating. 

So, I walked the room and saw as the ages increased, girls disappeared from the tables.  There were seven in kindergarten, and three girls in first grade, and then the rare one or two girls playing up through 12th grade.

Then, I returned to the 10th grade tables where, it seemed from the brackets, a girl with an unpronounceable name was kicking butt and drawing quite a crowd.  She had defiantly risen through the ranks by her intellect and skill, and now appeared to be applying all of her God-given assets.  There she sat in a snug sweater, with a plunging neckline, pondering moves by tapping on her pouting lips with her perfectly manicured, red-painted fingertips, casually twirling her dark locks between turns.

When she batted her eyes and whispered, “checkmate,” these adolescent boys were defenseless.

When she stood that afternoon to receive the second place trophy, with jacket zipped up and hair pulled back, she looked shy and unsure. The little girls wanted to touch the trophy. She obliged, then turned on her heel and left.

I asked my son if he knew her, he did not. But he reminded me, the most powerful player on the board is the Queen, nimble and gifted with the widest variety of moves.


All rights to the author, Lisa Nee, and the Middletown (CT) Patch. Published 3/20/11.

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