Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Ah, chess. The ancient contest of wits. Two opponents, mano a mano, braino a braino. And look: magnets for ease of travel."-The Tick, The Tick

The Boy prepares his great attack with patience. He senses weakness in the old man, and feels like Genghis Khan in a room full of kittens. He smiled as he pushed out his first piece. I felt fear.

Teaching a five-year-old chess wasn't something that I planned.

I was in the basement, doing my regular combination of turning perfectly nice pieces of wood into smaller pieces of wood connected by screws that service some sort of purpose and goofing off with The Boy, when he came across the chess set. I saw a covetous lust build in his eyes. He picked up the box.

“I want to play check pieces.”

“It’s called chess.”

“I want to play chess.”

After concluding our various bits of goofing, we ambled upstairs into the warmth of the wood stove. I carried the chess set.

The Mrs. immediately asked, “What’s that?”

“A chess set.”

Now, there are chess sets and there are chess sets. This particular chess set is a chess set. By that, I mean that it is old. The box top has suffered the indignity of having its corners pulled apart by the combination of young fingers and perhaps ninety years of time, maybe more. The masking tape that originally repaired them closed is older than me. There is no marking on the box, but it’s from the time before ™ and ® and © appeared on everything Milton Bradley made.

Now The Boy and I pulled the box open, and we began to set up the board. When I say we, well, I did. We worked on names as we went.

We began playing. We talked about the pieces as we went, and how they moved. Soon, The Boy’s strategy became evident.

“Ow, ow, ow,” he intoned, as he moved a pawn onto a black square from a red square.

“What are you doing?”

“The pawn hurts on the red square.”


“It’s red. He’s burning.”

So, The Boy’s entire strategy that first game was to move every piece he could from red squares to black squares. He was most upset that one of his bishops had to stay on red. Needless to say, I mopped up the chessboard with him.

After I finished my victory dance, I reflected. The Russians have had a long history of beating all comers in chess, barring the occasional IBM supercomputer or nutty Bobby Fischer. I think that’s due to several factors:
  • No Cable TV,
  • No Video Games,
  • Long Winters,
  • Russian Women, and
  • Vodka Shortages.
Changing any of these factors would have just put their national pastime into dusty boxes in the basement. I’m willing to bet by 2030 nobody on Earth will remember how to play even checkers, unless it’s part of a virtual simulation where the checkers have shotguns and you use the shotgun to shoot the other checkers. It’ll be on Playstation Box 3000, produced by MicroSony, the one with free brain implant surgery.

The Boy, however, seems to like chess at this age. By our third night of playing, he set up the board by himself, correctly. He’s almost got how the knight moves figured out. Being five, sitting through a chess game is fairly difficult. The temptation to do several moves at once is hard to resist. The temptation to wiggle is even harder to resist. After a roll of duct tape, though, I managed to get him settled in his chair.

He managed to play a good game that third night, before I caught him leaving his queen unprotected in the center of the board.

During the game, he had to go to the bathroom.

“Don’t touch the pieces, Dad!” he shouted as he ran down the hall.

Dang. There goes that advantage. Time to get him into video games.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Searching for Bobby Fischer" is a great movie, and the focal point is kids!

Nyet. Not vodka shortages; plentiful vodka... bounteous vodka... even excesses of vodka, but never shortages.

Chess is a good winter sport. You can leverage chess and vodka, and expose him to Russian classical music... but maybe wait a few years for the literature.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Duck Hunter said...

How is that computer mouse doing for you on the carpet?

9:00 PM  
Blogger Garry Nixon said...

I learned toplay when I was The Boy's age. After forty years, I'm still useless.

10:34 PM  
Blogger The Mayor said...

Duck Hunter! You stole my comment! I was thinking the same thing, get outta my head!!

My kids would never play chess, not enough shooting!

10:35 AM  
Blogger John said...

Well, it's a bit early to put the vodka into his Kool-Aid. I'll let him figure that one out when he gets to college. (NO. MORE. VODKA. EVER.)

As far as Russian music, I pretend that Judas Priest is from Russia.

I certainly will wait on the literature. If he read "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" I think he'd just sit and cry. If I made him read "War and Peace" I'd worry that he'd hit me with it for making him read it. That could fracture my nugget as well as his.

duck hunter,
Funny you should mention that. I had a spare mouse/keyboard that we found when we were dinking around downstairs. The Boy grabbed it and planted his flag upon it and pretended to type. The Mrs. and I write more than the damn Bronte sisters, so I'm guessing he was emulating us.

Now he works (seriously) in Word on the spare computer. I'm thinking that if we have 10,000 years, maybe we can get some Shakespeare out of him.

When I first read your comment, I thought it said topless instead of useless. I myself cannot remember playing topless chess. I have played many useless games. (NO. MORE. VODKA. EVER. is joined by NO. TOPLESS. CHESS.)

duck hunter is psychic. Don't worry. Just think happy thoughts.

I figure that I've got a few more years where he wants to play chess and do projects with the old man. I'm going to use 'em all. Every minute.

9:01 PM  
Blogger John said...

Oh, and for the record, that's not a computer mouse, that's a computer red-backed vole.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Lady Luck said...

After a roll of duct tape, though, I managed to get him settled in his chair.

You are Classic! I am still laughing at the pieces burning on the red squares! Please always put cute things the boy says in your blog! Those are the funniest.

10:56 AM  
Blogger John said...

lady luck,
Can do. He's a bit of a doofus, but he's mine . . .

8:07 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

Don't squander your wits on dumb games like chess. Save them for your blog.

9:20 PM  
Blogger John said...

It may be a year or three before The Boy tires out my brain on a chess game . . . now on skates . . .

10:18 PM  

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