Dad taught me to play chess when I was about ten. I wasn’t a natural, but I loved the idea I could compete against my Pops, maybe even beat him one day, so I persevered.
The effect all that involuntary concentration, forced memory retention, and strategic thinking had on this ten-year-old mind was profound. One day, I was running around a field with my sister; not a care in the world. The next, I was commanding an army, against an invincible enemy who —unlike me — never made a mistake!
Try as I may, I just could not beat him. We both knew all the moves and winning strategies, but he always seemed to apply them better than I did.
How was it possible for him to beat me so consistently?
Then one day I discovered the power of “positive thinking”.
And, you know what? As soon as I started believing I could beat him, I found that I could!
The old man never once allowed me to win at chess. I don’t mean by that he always won. Just that when I won, it wasn’t because he’d let me. I won because I remembered the rules, came up with a better strategy, and didn’t get scared off by my opponent’s strength.
In other words, I won because I deserved to.
I guess that’s where dads are different from mums. Mum would have let me win now and then — to encourage me not to give up. But this was a perfect example of the old man’s “tough love”, which I got a little more used to, and came to respect, as I grew older.
I was twelve by the time I first won, and I can tell you it’s a big moment in any kid’s life when he beats the Paterfamilias. From that point on, you literally start to see yourself differently.
Now I knew I could play chess and beat grown-ups. How hard could it be to beat another kid? And since my best friend, “Marshall”, was only a year or so older than me, there was no way he could be that much harder to beat. Right?
He absolutely demolished me!
Turns out, his older brother had been coaching him, and this older brother went on to become a Chess Master.