Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Chess Set

I became interested in chess when I was four years old - after I saw a beautiful carved chess set at friend's house - large pieces of lovely soft wood with felt base that were wonderful to touch, to hold, to caress even.

My Dad taught me to read when I was about five - that is - he taught me my letters. I naively hoped that knowing the letters would open all books to me. It wasn't until I tried reading Alan Moorehead's The Fatal Impact, that I realised what it really meant to 'learn to read'.

So I read The Gingerbread Man many times, and then Dad got me a slim volume called How to Play Chess - easy to read, and small in size, and telling me how to play Chess using simple images with moving icons and linked text. I loved it - it was just what I needed - an early positive reading experience.

Obviously I needed my own set, so there came the day when Mum took me to town to buy my first chess set. Because Chess was God's game, we had to ascend a huge distance up these vast wooden stairs at David Jones' Dept store, but eventually we reached a heaven filled with Chess sets of all sorts of sizes, styles, and materials.

Of course I'd only seen one set before - the set that drew me in, that first attracted me, and so I wanted a copy of that perfect exemplar, and simply sought out the one that looked most similar to that original; with a bemused salesman tagging along with Mum.

But it turned out that the pieces of my new set were not quite identical to my exemplar - the bishops had no slot cut in the head. This omission was so serious to me that I insisted my Dad cut slots to match. I mutilated my new set to match the one that I fell in love with. But the cut slots were not very deep, and used a very thin blade, and now over the years the slots have grown over - nature returning the pieces to their rightful state.

I would play Chess with the neighbourhood kids, but somehow it didn't seem to work out that well, and Mum was always rushing in to break us up, reminding us that Chess was a non-contact sport.

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