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The agonies of being a “chess parent”...



Chess, for parents, is a waiting game. I'm sitting in a school classroom (not on an infant-sized chair for once, at least!) and I'm waiting. And waiting. Chess is so different from other sports where you share in the action and know it will be all over by a given time. Here, I’ve always got half an eye on the door – distracted from my book every time a competitor returns. When will it be her? And will the face be happy, sad or an unreadable mask? I feel sick with nerves, like waiting outside an exam room.


As a parent you are of no use here except in fleeting intervals between matches, when you are a cross between a snack bar and Yoda. This one’s a team event, but even if the team wins your child may still come away feeling defeated - perhaps all the more acutely if others do well and they do not. This must be the universal prayer of the chess parent: "at least one win please.."!


Phew!! She's out, and it's good news this time. Success is toasted with banana milk. Moves are described and I politely pretend to understand what she’s telling me. A quick game of footie (also not my strong point!) and then back to the boards....


The clock ticks and the wait begins again. Time signifies nothing, of course, except that scholar's mate has not been delivered. I think of all the other things I could be doing on a sunny Saturday afternoon in March ....


But for all that, and without pretending to understand the tactics, I still can appreciate the genius and complexity of chess. I’m jealous of the knowledge my girls have developed and admiring of the generosity of the teachers, club members and other competitors who have taken time to help develop their skills. Where else can young and old, male and female (though we could do with some more of the latter!) come together on so even a playing field? Forget football - chess really is “the beautiful game”.







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