Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just the Kind of Spirit

When you hear the words "chess spirit", what is the first thing that comes to mind? For some, it would be the good sportsmanships in the game itself or even the perseverance in achieving a master title. Others might believe that chess spirit is about the amount of people who play chess in a given community or show up at a certain tournament. The list goes on as the true definition of "chess spirit" cannot be defined - everyone has his own perspective when it comes to vague terms like this one.

Recently, I encountered a few people that demonstrated two unique chess spirits. The former is more of a group effect as it was the entire family that participated in this "chess spirit". I was able to take a picture with the daughter and mother but not the father. Take a look at the picture below:

Left to right: little girl's mother, little girl and me!

Now take a look at the shirts we are wearing. Mine isn't any special at all but if you pay close attention to the red and white one, you'll be amazed at the words written on it! The little girl's shirt said "Grand Master in Training" and her mom's shirt said "Chess Mom" (yes, it's a little covered up)! As I mentioned earlier, I didn't get the chance to take a photo with the father but his shirt said "Chess Dad". Isn't it adorable? :) Oh and I forgot to mention that this photo was taken at a chess tournament where the little was playing in. So the entire family wore chess T-shirts to support their daughter! AWESOME chess spirit!!

The second person that I'm going to introduce is John Granger, a chess enthusiast living in one of the best cities to play chess in Canada - Toronto. In Toronto, we have the greatest number of local tournaments plus the largest turnout rates. Wouldn't it be natural for chess devotees to play in a local tournament or a club at the very least?

me and John

Well, the truth is, before I met John, I thought that the amount of people who are really passionate about chess is limited to this little chess community that we've established in Toronto long ago. Those who play in clubs, tournaments and other chess events are the same people and after a while, every face will seem familiar. However, John's story is very much different from the people in this so-called"chess community".

A few weeks ago, I received an email from John regarding donations for Chess in the Library. He had read the article that was published in the Toronto Star and offered to donate a few boxes of chess books to our organization. I was undoubtedly delighted to hear this great news but after sending a few emails back and forth, I realized that his donation was beyond what appeared on the surface.

It was his chess spirit that touched me deeply.
John had a collection of about a hundred chess books but never played in a single rated tournament or club match! Being a curious cat, I sought for an explanation. Below is what I received as reply:

"Truth is I much more enjoy walking through great games, and reading about great players, than studying theory. I did learn enough theory to avoid basic mistakes but I tended to avoid deep learning of opening lines. That way almost all my games were new and exciting (for me at least). (But it also meant that I would likely never develop into a high level player! :)

And yes - I only played for fun - never got a ranking.. I think I got so much enjoyment out of playing with friends and studying the game that I didn't look for more."

I read these lines over and over, staring at them in awe for quite some time. His passion for chess is so great that simply enjoying the game itself could be so self-satisfying. Many people play chess for the rating and the titles that they can achieve once their rating gets to a certain point. However, in John, I saw a true appreciation of the game and nothing, absolutely nothing else could become a factor of his penchant for chess. I truly admire John's chess spirit; although the spirit he processes is not something physical (like the first one above), not many people are able to see it, but once you do, the effects are so much greater than those who show it physically.

So thank you John, for generously donating your trove of chess books to Chess in the Library and for unconsciously reminding us all the reason to why we love this game so much.

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