We have a family chessboard. Handed down from my dad. I remember the scant occasions it was taken out, and it’s only now, with the wisdom of age that some things have become apparent to me.
Firstly, when asked Dad said the board was “made by one of you ones in school” – given the pieces are cheapo formed plastic this seemed unlikely, so we checked the board and nope – made in Poland. Bought, no doubt, on a family holiday in Strangford where we’d spend many rainy days stuck in a caravan when entertainment didn’t stretch to tvs (when we got older I remember one family had a tv hooked up to the juice in their car – we never had a tv. Or a car).
Secondly, this thing never saw a check mate in its life. We played chess until someone got you in check then it was game over. My memory tells me dad played this all the time, but I suspect it was only my brother Mark who was any good at it. (Mark largely an enigma to me, we were one year apart but he delighted in tormenting me and argued with mum constantly until he moved out age 16, he could be both very very smart and very very dim – he loved games and puzzles and could do the rubic’s cube when it would just leave me in state of furious frustration. Mark passed away in 1997 age 26 of sudden adult death syndrome, 24 years ago now, good lord)
So as we all got older this board got put away and, at some point dad handed it over to me as a family heirloom – I’m the oldest of five lads, with surprisingly large age gaps between us all (heck my youngest brother is about 25 years younger than me) and I suppose the natural inheritor of the heirlooms (such as they are).
Recently my eldest (now 16) decided he wanted to play it and, readers, let me tell you, he has been slaughtering me at chess.
He keeps asking why I can’t get check mate, and frankly, my brain just doesn’t work like that – check, if I’m lucky.
We had one game were, through some errors, he ended up on the back foot, I think I had him down to his King, and he moved the piece in such a way that he declared “DRAW! which, since you have better pieces and all I have is a king, I’m taking as a win!”
Look, let me tell you the god’s honest truth about myself, I hate competitive games for two reasons: 1) I’m not very good at them and 2) I HATE THAT I’M NOT VERY GOOD AT THEM.
Anyway, I’ve reluctantly played him a few times, my main strategy is “what can I do that he’s not expecting” this has not yet led to a winning game.
But, we’ve bought him a brand new decent board and this one, at least, has seen plenty of “Check Mates”.
Even if they’ve only been against me.