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Queen’s Gambit

May 30, 2011

Yesterday AJ and I took a drive to meet Jeanne at a hotel where her son W was playing in a chess tournament. We were hoping to introduce the two boys, even though W is quite a bit older than AJ, because a) AJ also likes to play chess (although not anywhere near the same level as W) and b) AJ is the new owner of a trombone formerly played by W. Unfortunately, W was playing 5 back-to-back chess games, so we didn’t get to talk to him. We did get to watch him in action, though.

I’ve never been to a chess tournament before and AJ and I both thought it was very interesting. This particular tournament was held in a huge ballroom (and, I think, other spaces as well, but we just saw the one). There were rows upon rows of tables that ran the width of the very large room, with chairs on either side. The back tables were empty, but toward the front, they were packed with game-players. The thing I think is interesting about chess is that players are grouped by rank, nothing else. Gender and age has nothing to do with it. So we saw kids so small their feet didn’t touch the floor playing adults my age or older. There were very few women playing — I only noticed one — and no girls that I could find. The room was very quiet — there are regulations about noise during games.It was a very serious looking place. AJ was very interested to see what was happening. He told me later that he liked that there were so many young kids. He’s been interested in playing in a tournament for a while, but he’s nervous about it. I think after seeing that there were other kids like him, he’s thinking about it again. He was also fascinated by the chess clocks, which have two timers, one for each player.

After we spied on W, who was either concentrating really hard or trying to avoid his mother’s gaze as any good 15-year–old should, AJ and I took Jeanne to the Chicago Botanic Garden. The first clue that this wasn’t a great idea should have been that the temperature was a good 10 degrees colder than it had been when we left. But we pressed on and went to look at some flowers. AJ took a few pictures with Jeanne’s camera, as she had forgotten hers, so perhaps there will be evidence of our meeting at some point. But almost as soon as we entered the gardens, it began thundering. AJ is not a fan of thunder. He has a routine of things he does at home to keep himself calm, but when he is out and in the presence of strangers, he finds reasons go home. “I’m so tired and my legs hurt. Can we just go home?” No, we couldn’t. We did move inside to the greenhouses and just in the nick of time too, because the heavens opened. It was nice to warm up among the palm trees and orchids. We sat inside and watched it poor for a while and then we made a run for the entrance building, where be bought some rain ponchos in the gift shop (thank you, Jeanne!) and a Venus flytrap plant for AJ. Then we gave up on the gardens and headed for lunch at an Italian restaurant near the hotel.

AJ chatted with us a little, watched the White Sox game on the TV a little and checked the weather outside regularly and occasionally ate something, while Jeanne and I drank sangria and got caught up on things and dried off a little. After lunch we dropped her back at her hotel and AJ talked chess to me all the way home. This morning, when I went to open his windows, I saw his chess book open on his bed. He’d been up early reading. He must have gotten something out of it, because he beat me soundly at a game this morning. And here I was thinking I’d been playing rather well.

Today we are cleaning and gardening, two activities which allow me to do some thinking about my interview while feeling like I’m accomplishing something.

I’m not sure if I’ll get the next music post out today. It may have to wait until tomorrow after things calm down around here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2011 1:40 pm

    Last fall I asked W something chess related. He ended up having to explain it to me using checkers, but he turned out to be very good and breaking a concept into words small enough that I understood.

    I felt guilty about only having checkers on hand, then reflected that since W plays chess with a LOTR chess set, he’s probably pretty flexible. I agree that W and AJ would find each other interesting. Clearly, we need more virtual friend gatherings.

  2. May 30, 2011 2:36 pm

    I had an excellent time, meeting AJ, seeing a few really spectacular flowers (a reason to go back), and keeping our record of Harriet and I only meeting in bars (completely serendipitously, the Italian restaurant seated us in the bar section).

    The section of the ballroom that was empty yesterday is full today, now that the 3 and 4 day players have joined the 2 day players. The games were staggered yesterday (only foolhardy 2-day players had to try to play 5 games in one day), but they’re all in there together for the final fight.

  3. May 30, 2011 3:09 pm

    AJ has been beating the pants off me today. I’m down 3 games to 0. I think my days of being a worthy opponent may be over.

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