Monday, July 12, 2010

chess

The new White House Cafe which just opened in La Grande has several very cool and appealing features among which are the chess tables upstairs. I took Colm in there this morning and we had a hot drink and played a game.

Since it was Colm's first game ever we started off with the basic rules of the game and the pieces on the board. As we began playing, I tried to furnish him opportunities for taking pieces and for losing them. Colm was an apt pupil and a good natured one. He seemed genuinely intrigued by the array of options and also by the chain of events that a given move might trigger. As we played I began to appreciate how the game provided a context for some thoughtful utterances.
"Check."
"I didn't see that."
"It's hard to see everything."
"There are so many moves."
"Yes. What are your possible moves?"
"If I take your knight will you take my bishop?
"Yes, and if I do, what will you do?"
"I can take it with my queen."
"Is it worth it to you?"
"I don't know, maybe."
"Try it, then."
"Okay."

Later on, the board had become somewhat depleted. We had traded pieces pretty freely. Both of us had captured pieces lined up in front of us. Colm had begun to focus on them as if they were booty and perhaps even the point of the game.

"I have eight and you have seven. I'm winning."
"Maybe. But it's not what you've captured; it's what you and I've got out there on the board. Your move."
Colm paused; he looked me square in the eye very much as if he were calling up a moment of truth.
"Daddy?"
"Yeah?"
"Do you have a plan?"

I smiled . Colm seemed to have momentarily achieved enough distance from the game on the board to see the other game, the one involving father and son. I chuckled and handed him the truth. He'd earned it. "No, I don't have a plan... But I kinda wish I did have a plan."

Colm smiled back at me. "Me too."
"Let's just play."
"Okay."
K

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