Friday, December 16, 2011

Chess

Charlie has discovered chess and is patiently allowing himself to be beaten game after game while he learns the moves.  He's already worked out the complicated Knight and is getting to grips with bishops and rooks and the omniscient Queen; he's learnt how to castle his King but he is finding pawns hard to master with their erratic manoeuvres...

I'm delighted and frankly I credit all the problem-solving games he's been playing on my phone for the past year and a half.  Every game he gets a teeny bit better and he is longing for Christmas when we will be staying in a house with a proper chess set.

All this budding chess genius talk is making no impression on the Frog who pronounced after his 5-year-old's third-ever game of chess "He's rubbish, he can't remember which piece is which!"  He also commented, more accurately that "I bet he'll have dropped it in a week" - so no pressure then.

I have an ambivalent relationship with chess.  My Dad started teaching me when I was about 6, no doubt with the same dreams of owning his own personal chess savant that I harbour.  I always wanted to be good at it but sadly the light never shone for me.

I have fond memories of visiting a very good friend who was living in Paris for a while and being taken to his local cafe where chess was played at any hour of the day by wizened Frenchmen smoking tiny, pungent roll ups.  We sat at a table and started a game and within a few moves he had me up against the wall.  As I was concentrating fanatically on at least taking his queen with me before I went down, I noticed the occupants of the cafe edging slowly towards me, muttering to each other.

Before long we were surrounded by chess players and wreathed in cigarette smoke.  The muttering got louder, they were clearly itching to help out... then, unable to stop himself a thin hand snaked down from the closest figure and gestured at a move I should make.

Hugely annoyed at the interference, I made the move and drained my wine glass in irritation.  My friend responded; again I sunk into baffled silence.  The muttering grew quickly into a loud debate about which gambit I should be taking and the whole cafe was now standing around our table.

Another move was suggested and just as my annoyance was peaking, I realised what was happening.  Letting them take over, I watched a beautiful, full-on turn-about take place... I can't remember who won or lost the game but for a few moments, the door into chess had opened and a chink of light had shone through.

Who knows if Charlie will still be playing chess by Christmas?  I don't know and I don't much care but I am certainly going to be encouraging him to do anything which takes his mind away from shooting zombies, throwing angry birds at pigs, sinking pirate ships or any of the destructive video games he's been playing.

No, it's going to be about murdering bishops, capturing queens and pillaging pawns from now on - death to the king!

7 comments:

Carol said...

I always wanted to learn how to play chess (I love chess boards...I think they are beautiful) but I'm not very strategically minded and I never got the hang of it. Maybe my new years resolution should be to learn to play...

C x

Sparx said...

Mine too - Charlie beat me yesterday!! Guess I can't play at all either!

Lisa @ Boondocks said...

I don't want Jonathan playing those video games that zap the brain cells. I haven't even introduced him yet. We went to visit a friend of his and the kid was so glued to the TV and the game he completely ignored Jonathan the whole time and would even let him play. It was really awful. Might be good for their skills in some ways, but when it pulls them in so much that no one else matters...yikes! I'd much rather have him play chess or checkers or something similar...that makes him think and interact with another person.

Sparx said...

Hi Lisa

There are benefits and contraindications for video games and it's easy to focus on the downsides. We do sometimes have a battle getting Charlie to stop playing the video games, on the other hand, his grasp of chess is quite strong for someone who has only been playing for a month and his reading and maths are very strong for his age and frankly I credit the games.

He's quite balanced, he rides his bike and plays with his wooden trains, he plays a lot of imaginative games with his friends - not to mention music.

On balance we are trying not to be paranoid on the video games but it's true that he plays more than is strictly good for him... I think a lot depends on the environment in which the child is seated; the amount of corollary attention and love and physical/imaginative play outside of the digital world that decides whether or not it is a negative or positive influence.

Merry Christmas!

D.J. Kirkby said...

Chess is quite beyond me but I am addicted to Scrabble and this year N3S has developed an obsession with it too. *hurrah* One of these years we may even win a game against Chris...

Sue said...

You're not going to believe this but Rahul was all about chess in November-December. Once he got me on the backfoot, checking my king 4-5 consecutive moves but then somebody said something and he got distracted and the moment passed. It was quite the moment, though.

I find he has an easier time if I cut down the number of pieces. So, half the board plus king and queen.

Sparx said...

Hi Su

That's a good idea - I'm keeping Charlie with the full board now though... although we've not played for a week or so, we got a new set of Wii games for Christmas which he's hard to pry away from... but I'll give that a go if he is reluctant to come back to it. The chess club at his school starts with the class up from him so we've another six months of playing at home...