By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I’ll never forget that afternoon, nor my uncle’s satisfied smile at being beaten, after a few months of sparring with him at chess.
He was a good player, who became passionate about the game after an accident left him paralyzed at just 23 years of age. He won the provincial championship of the Cuban Association for the Physically and Motor Challenged, and some other tournaments. I think I inherited two things from him: his reading habit and his taste for chess.
I remember looking at the shelves of books and chess sets in my grandparents’ house when I was 3 or 4 years old. I’d put the pieces on a 64-square chessboard and move the figures around according to my imagination. Then I’d hear him say once more: “One of these days I’ll teach you to play chess.”
When I learned, I became so passionate about it that right up until adolescence, I scarcely thought about anything else. My childhood dream was to become a great player of international stature, like Capablanca or the Karpov-Kasparov duo, who in those years inspired great excitement all over the planet about the science of the game.
I competed with excellent results, like that unforgettable April of 1989 when I won first place in the provincial scholastic games.
Later, the early teens arrived, and my love began to fade, due to the lack of opportunities, my interest in girls, the scarcities of the so-called Special Period and the crisis of adolescence.
The love that was always crouched there, waiting, flowered once more in 2003, once again thanks to my uncle. He was playing in tournaments of correspondence chess, where the players communicated their moves through the mail. He initiated me into that modality, and in a short time I managed to win several tournaments at an intermediate level and obtain the title of National Expert. However, after years of practicing this way, I abandoned the modality in 2016, due to advancing technology.
By that time, almost everyone was using the powerful computer chess programs, and I didn’t want to lose to artificial intelligence nor use it as a hybrid. I enjoy playing alone with my brain.
Recently, a chess fever has sprung up among the youth of my neighborhood, so strong that the soccer games are threatened with taking a back seat.
At all hours, you can find a group around a chessboard, either playing or watching the game.
Among them, I’ve been revealed as a kind of chess machine, a genius or something similar, although obviously I’m not. It’s just that they’re young players who I can defeat with great ease.
At the urging of one of them, I downloaded the platform chess.com, the largest internet site for chess. It has 30 million players and allows you to compete with opponents around the entire world in real time, giving you ratings and categories.
I opened an account, and I’m already in the category of Class A club player, although I hope to reach the expert level.
It surprised me that after seven years of absence, chess has once again forgiven my infidelities and allowed me to maintain the levels of years past.
In this way, my passion has been reborn, thus confirming the famous saying of Ben Larsen, a Dane, and one of the best players in the world in the second half of the 20th century. Larsen said: “Chess is a beautiful lover we return to again and again.”
Luckily, the game doesn’t use up that many megabytes, so I can play up to three games a day, although I’ve lost some due to connectivity problems.
And thus, chess joins fitness and writing to form a healing trilogy for mind and body, an umbrella against the torrential rain of hardships that we Cubans suffer. The beautiful lover who today helps me cope with – or maybe avoid? – an ever more difficult reality.