I Can Quit Anytime

chessWhere were you on September 11? I know exactly where I was sitting and what I was doing when I first heard about terrorists and planes going into the twin towers, the Pentagon and that field in PA. I remember precisely how that total stranger told me about 9/11 on 9/11. Thing is, that stranger could have been living down the street or pulling an all-nighter in China. You see, he told me while we were playing online chess.

Insert confession here: I have played chess almost daily for the past 11 years. In the beginning, I would close my eyes and still see the chessboard. (Is that a bad thing?)

I learned to play chess when I was probably about 30 and the Young Life Area Director in Santa Fe. I found one of the high school students I worked with, Matt Dark, who knew how to play and was willing to teach me. After Young Life Club the group would go out for ice cream and three or four chess sets would hit the tables and then out came the trash talk and the slamming of clocks. It was nerdy but it was awesome.

I should have known that my chess life had become unmanageable when:

1. I started buying books with titles like Chessercsizes and, wait for it, More Chessercizes.

2. I began studying (but not understanding) famous chess games.

3. I found myself playing other seminarians under the table during our summer sessions.

4. I began upping the dosage with “team” chess where four people play two chess games and replay the pieces their partner has captured.

5. My wife had to start imposing rules regarding my chess playing. Rules like, “No trash talking the 3 year old when teaching her chess.” (In my defense she was ‘being a baby.’) Then the most oppressive rule crept into our marriage, “No playing online chess while the kids are awake.” I know my kids and my kids know me because of the chess rules my wife set up.

The sweetest part of my chess addiction is that I have played continuous turn-based games for the better part of 11 years with that same kid who taught me way back in Santa Fe. Matt is a married, math smart coffee nerd, who plays the blues and lives in Portland.

(For the record, I immediately resigned the 9/11 game.)



Filed under A Good Life

5 responses to “I Can Quit Anytime

  1. Jim Kirkpatrick

    Yeah, right…..

  2. Zaharenia Tsikopoulos

    We all can remember where we were on September 11 2001; this is my short story:

    We were in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; getting ready to journey back to our home in Phoenix. Our anticipated ride to the airport with kids; Alexander (4.5) and Andreanna (3), never became our reality – instead we all gathered to watch the horrifying images television had to offer. Definitely not a good time to travel!

    There was an instant understanding that where ever you were in the world, our mortality is very fragile, every minute of the day. NO KIDDING! Crossing the border suddenly became a diabolical obstacle course of many proponents. Real human pain was exposed and personified, then it became visible all over the world, what had this evil program unleashed?

    Two vivid childhood memories pushed their way to the forefront of my minds’ eye in front of the TV; it was that familiar haze of confusion and darkness…

    1) When Martin Luther King was assassinated, my father wept and told me what had happened but I was too young to grasp all those political concepts so he rephrased his message, “Never, ever should any man be in bondage to another man – this is NOT how Jesus wants us to live.” That was very loud and clear.

    2) When JFK was assassinated, again I witnessed my father weeping in front of the TV.
    Well I was a little bit older, and somehow knew that people all over the world were in trouble again – I gathered that somehow this murder happened because someone or a group of people missed out on the Jesus history lessons, that he had taught the world a long time ago. So I had decided right then and there that I needed to learn all the lessons Jesus taught, and realized that it would probably take me a long time since these lessons were very old – I needed to start searching!

    Our children now had witnessed their own parents weeping, in front of the TV and
    nothing made sense, too many questions flooded all our thoughts. Surrounded by confusion and darkness; but my soul kept searching for the light and subconsciously grabbed onto the noetic prayer. I really needed to find Jesus again, he is LIFE.
    What precious gift(s) the holy protection has to offer to whom ever is searching!

    Lessons learned:
    Getting too comfortable with some lifestyle habits is an existence of an earthly falsehood.
    Naturally taking the risk and leaving that comfort zone is something I believe we all need to prayerfully do – personally I have learned this is the only way out of bondage from those subliminal connections that keep pulling me backwards.

    Sounds so easy; actually it is very challenging and a struggle to stay on this path. I am thankful for the love God always is offering; all I need to do is to accept that love and anticipate many changes.

    Proto O Theos (God comes first!) – I am still searching.

    I never trusted that TV.

    Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner

  3. fatherjamesearly

    Fr. James,

    I just found your blog and am looking forward to reading your writings. I too am a chess addict, and have been for about 5 years now. I have done some of the things you have done to improve and have read some of the same books. I even tried playing in a few tournaments, but finally gave up about three years ago, after getting my tail kicked again and again. I have written about one of my more interesting experiences on my own blog: http://saintjameskids.blogspot.com/2007/03/chess-part-one.html.

    I rarely ever have time to play a full game in one sitting any more, so I play on a site called http://www.slowchess.com. Playing on this site is totally free, and the neat thing is you play one move at a time. It’s kind of like a combination between correspondence chess and regular online chess. You can set the time controls to be VERY slow, or pretty quick, or somewhere in between. I would love to play you on the site if you are interested. If so, contact me at fatherjames7@yahoo.com, and I’ll help you get set up.

    Take care, and I hope things are going well for you out there in Aridzona.

  4. Jennifer Lechman

    Hello Father James. This blog brought back alot of memories regarding younglife, learning how to play chess myself, and also where i was on 9/11. i have been enjoying your blogs and hope some day we can all meet up again. thank you and God bless. In Christ, Jenny

  5. Hi you don’t know, but you do know my wife Rachel. She was on Young life staff with you. She just sent me this blog and I have to admit that I too have now become addicted to chess. Less than a year ago Rachel bought me an Iphone and I downloaded Games with Friends chess game. I had not played chess since I was about 10 years old, so I’m not that good and I’m going through some serious growing pains and lossing about 80% of my games. It started out as just a way to pass some time but has now turned into a full blown addiction. I’m playing people from all over the world from Greece to Germany and even hear in the US. My phone text messages me when they make a move. Since some of the players are in other times zones, Rachel gets really mad when my phone beeps at odd hours of the night. I’ve also found myself checking my phone about every 5 – 10 minutes to see if my opponent has made a move. I also find myself playing at the dinner table or even sneaking off to play a move or two while hanging out with friends and family. At first it wasn’t a big deal, but now Rachel too has laid down the law and made some rules that I have to follow if I want to continue to play. One rule is that I’m not allowed to play chess when we have company over or if we are hanging out with other people. She has also said that I’m not allow to play chess in public (i.e. out to eat or at a social event). I haven’t gotten to the trash talking phase yet, mostly because I’m not that good and it would be silly to talk trash when I’m getting whipped. Anyway if you have an Iphone with the Games with Friends Chess app maybe one day we will play a game (user name “Kickatree”). Take care.

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