Let's Play

Liverpool Life I last played chess with real pieces when I was at school. For some time I was part of the school Chess Club and actually thought I was quite good. I'd been interested in the game since I was a youngster watching Play Chess on weekday mornings during school holidays (those were the days) and playing many games with my father. But somewhere along the line I lost the knack, my interest waned and I started watching films, something which until lately was a non-interactive hobby. It wasn't until later, just before I went to university first time around that I had another flourish of interest when Channel Four broadcast coverage of Garry Kasparov vs Nigel Short in 1993. Other than the Deep Blue documentary I haven't watched a chess match since then.

It was quite a nostaligia trip then, sitting in the Horseshoe Gallery at World Museum Liverpool watching Short take on Karttunen at the European Union Individual Championships. The two players sat heads bowed, hands on ears, deep in concentration. I sat not too far away, behind a barrier, and it must have been quite disconcerting to have my beady eyes fixed on their faces and hands. Every now and then Short would glare up nervously at the spectators also standing nearby trying to take in the game and who had the upper hand. As I looked at the board I realised I didn't have a clue. I think someone had castled and a queen was vulnerable, but other than that, crushingly, I didn't have an idea. I just kept watching Short trying to work out what he was thinking, surprised about how young he looks even now.

The only noise in the room was from the footsteps of people on the floorboards. As I strolled out I noticed the variety of players from young teens to twentysomethings although admittedly mostly male. Names from throughout Europe with faces that looked strangely familiar. Some game boards were wooden and carved, some plastic and rubber. I wondered if that was a status symbol or some way of distinguishing the Grand Masters from everyone else which I decided wasn't very fair. I stopped now and then and tried to decipher the state of play but again saw a mess of moves and positions, mostly indistingushable. It reminded me that although some hobbies are passing phases others catch fire. I wondered what might have happened if I hadn't become disinterested with chess ...

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