"Sunday afternoons," complained Anne, bitterly, planting herself firmly in front of us to be sure of claiming our complete attention. "Sunday afternoon is the most boring time of all the week."
"Daddy just sits there and watches football and you, Mummy, go on and on reading the papers. It's all SO boring!"
"I've got a good idea," said Hilary, hopping
up and down. "I want Daddy to teach us how to play chest."
I allowed myself a minute or two to think this one out. "Do you mean chess?" "That's it," agreed Anne, "The game Daddy played with Grandad
last Sunday, he promised he'd teach us one day."
"I think you're a bit young..." I began doubtfully. But support was at hand from an unexpected quarter. Of course it might have been because the final
whistle had been blown on the Big Match, but their father was looking decidedly interested.
"I could show them the way it's all set out to start with," he said, "I was only reading the other day
that chess should be taught as a subject at school. It helps the powers of reasoning, they say..."
Privately I remained sceptical but I am not one to dampen such enthusiasm. I retired once more behind
the colour supplement until the conversation over the chess board bcame too fascinating to be ignored.
"This is the king. The game depends on keeping the king safe from attack by the other side."
"We don't have a king in England, Daddy, we have a Queen."
"Forget about England for a minute. Now this is the white king and this is the black king
and they have each got a queen, look."
"Are they married to each oher, the king and the queen?"
"Well - yes. I suppose you could say..."
"Our Queen is married but her husband isn't a king, he's a prince. Is there a prince in chest, Daddy?"
"No! Listen, there are two kingdoms, the
black and the white and they each have a King and a Queen, right?"
"And neither of them is England?"
"Neither of them is England, that's right."
"What are all the little ones, then?"
"I know! I know!" Hilary was ready with the answer. "Grandad told me. They're prawns!"
"Pawns," corrected their father, weakly.
"Are the prawns the Queen's children?" Hilary wanted to know.
are the king's soldiers. That's why they stand in the front row. These two..." he added, in an exasperated aside to me, "Are trying to turn chess into a game of Mothers and Fathers."
interrupted Anne, "Is like a little castle."
"Good girl!" Return to the chessboard with fresh vigour. "That's the Castle. Sometimes it's called a Rook."
"Sometimes it's called a palace too," said Hilary. Her father slowly and painfully shook his head.
"Oh, yes it is, Daddy. Buckingham Palace is a kind of castle, isn't it? I've never heard anyone
call it a rook, though."
"Buckingham Rook!" chortled Anne, delightedly. "Daddy, do the king and queen live in the little castles?"
like," said their father, resignedly. "Now here is the knight."
"It's a horse, really, isn't it?" Hilary whispered to Anne, one eye on their teacher.
"Which only leaves us with the Bishop!" with a relieved note of finality.
"We know what that is - it's an important kind of vicar. Can we play now, Daddy?!"
"Well first you have to learn how all the pieces move around the board. They all move differently, see. Look at the queen, she can move forwards, backwards or diagionally."
all studied the path of the white queen wih interest. "Like a Union Jack," said Anne thoughtfully.
"Well...yes," replied her father.
not supposed to be talking about England," put in Hilary virtuously, "Because we haven't got a king at the moment."
"I wasn't talking about England," Anne disputed hotly, "I'm just saying that
the queen moves like a Union Jack, I didn't say she was OUR Queen or anything. And YOU were talking about Buckingham Palace....."
"Shall we," said their father, suddenly, "Have a game of Ludo
now. "Then," with a black look in my direction, "Mummy can play too."
"Aren't you going to teach us to play chest, then, Daddy?"
you?" I echoed, cruelly.
"Of course I am. It's best to teach them a little at a time, that's all. Run and get the Ludo board, Anne, there's a good girl."
"You can laugh," he threatened me, huffily, "Wait and see. They'll get the idea eventually."
To be honest, I can't see him setting them off on the Bobby Fischer trail - but it will make
for some hilarious Sunday afternoons, listening to him try...
Slough Evening Mail 1973