"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.
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.