Staring across the board at my skinny little seven year old, I noticed a playful ruthlessness had come over his face. He was trying to destroy me, with chess pieces. Palms sweaty, I moved my king to the corner of the board. I had escaped. Barely. I had come much too close to defeat. How had he gotten so good so quickly?
I grew up playing chess with my Dad. My grandfather had made us a really nice chess board that piqued my curiosity when I was young. My parents taught me how to play and I started playing against my dad quite a bit, gradually getting better. I never beat my Dad in those early years of elementary school.
That changed during third and fourth grade when I started playing in our school chess club. We had an awesome chess club with probably fifteen to twenty kids showing up an hour before school a few times a week. We played against each other before school, during school and often times after school as well. My friend Jeremy and I, (pitcher for the Kansas city Royals) who lived a few houses up the street from us, used to play a lot. He was a few grades older than I was, and would destroy me every time we played. I never felt bad though, as he and some of the other guys on the team had won state and gone to the national chess tournament at least once or twice. The best I did was take second in the state when I was in 6th grade.
The first few times I beat my Dad, I couldn’t tell if he was playing easy on me. I think he was. At some point however, I started noticing he was taking the games more seriously. I remember one game I won. After realizing it was over, he leaned back in his chair shaking his head with a smile. He won, he said to my mother. He won, he repeated again. I had beaten my Dad. That wasn’t supposed happen. My Dad was invincible when I was little.
Yet I was growing up. My Dad wasn’t always going to be bigger, stronger and smarter than me. Life seemed to go by so slowly when I was young, and then I won a game of chess and 10 years passed by in a second. Realizations like this are powerful, and they turn into monuments that we will never forget.
As I watched my son yesterday come so close to defeating me, I was afraid that this incredible season of my life was coming to a close. I wasn’t ready for it to happen. So like a cornered animal, I clawed and willed myself to victory one more time.
Thankfully most change in our lives comes upon us slowly, giving us a chance to adjust. Life’s too short to live in the past. We need to enjoy the present, but strive to make the next season even better.
It will still be hard when I lose. We usually shake hands at the end of each game. This time I’ll probably have to give him a hug so he won’t see my tears, and with that, another monument will be built.
*Update* He beat me yesterday, a week after I wrote this post. I made one mistake and couldn’t recover. He couldn’t get to sleep last night until almost midnight he was so excited.
I started teaching my son how to play chess less than a year ago. Since then he’s played hundreds of games against me, our computer and anyone else that is ever up for a game. Two months ago he won the first chess tournament at a community center close by. It was against other kids between the ages of 6-10. He regularly beats all the adults that he plays, except one friend of ours. Zach, who is about my age, has regularly kept Moses and I humble over these past months.
I should also add, that at some point I put a $50 bounty on my head for the day he beats me. Looking back, that was a mistake, as he is never lacking in motivation and drive to get better at anything he puts his mind to. And soon I will be $50 poorer.