Thursday, April 11, 2013

`He'd Rather Lose Than Draw'

We fly today to Toronto to visit a nearby private school our 12-year-old may attend. My father-in-law, brother-in-law and half the male members of my wife’s family are alumni. This is not about snobbery. Our feelings are mixed, we dread the idea of him possibly living so far away, but the public schools are a scandal. I’ve never visited Toronto and we expect to spend Saturday exploring the city. Internet connections could be dicey so I’ll post some Canadian material in advance through Sunday, updated if contingencies permit. In 1999, the Canadian poet David Solway published Chess Pieces (McGill-Queen’s University Press), a collection devoted to poems about the game. I taught all three of my sons to play chess when they were young, and my 12-year-old and I have started playing the game again. Here is Solway’s “My Son at Chess”:

“He’ll play a swift, incisive match
and snake-quick to observe a flaw
in half a dozen moves dispatch
his victim. He’d rather lose than draw.

“Has trouble playing by lamplight
for shadows still obscure his mind
but in the day his black or white
will dazzle his opponents blind;

“yet makes mistakes, as one expects,
with moves the chess mole might descry,
but when the game will grow complex
revenges his simplicity.

“He has no joy in turtle-chess,
dislikes the endgame, will turn green
with boredom, but see him press
with bishop and killer queen;

“for black or white, but never grey,
his chess spunk will intimidate
the circumspect. To watch him play
who would guess he’s only eight?”

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