A Memorable Date


A few years ago I was out on date with a very intelligent woman. How intelligent? Let me tell you this story.


We walked along Santa Monica Beach and enjoyed the pier where they had an arcade and interesting things to do. On the way back we stopped by the chess tables. As usual, there were people playing the game and generally enjoying the game.


Now I’ve been studying chess for about three decades. And while I am very good, I also realize there is much more I want to learn. Becoming good at chess is hard work and involves sacrificing many little, unimportant things in life; TV, food, and sleep are some examples.


Anyway, we stopped by one of the table. After studying the position for a few minutes, I finally figured out White had a mate in seven moves. The player makes the first correct move. And I thought, “He sees it!” As he makes the second correct move; my heart leaps for joy – it’s a beautiful combination. Alas! – He errors on his third move and his fourth move is a blunder. He eventually recovers and eventually after mutual exchange of errors, he finally wins the game.


As my date walked away from the tables I turned to her and asked if see also saw the combination.


She replies, “You mean moving the pawn to the 7th rank and checking with the Knight leading to checkmate?” I was surprised. I thought I was more intelligent than her, at least in this area of my life. After all, I was the one who worked so hard to get better at the game.


She continued, “I saw it when we got to the table”. Wow!


So I asked her how she learned chess. She told me in college she saw two men playing the game in a park. She watched the game for about 15 minutes and then learned the game. She told me she never studied, just learned the game that one day and that was it.


Fifteen minutes! She studied the game for 15 minutes and was better than me who has studied the game for thirty (30!) years? I gave up TV, many hours of my free time, and even skipped a few meals as I wanted to study more. All this woman invested was fifteen minutes of her time between classes.


Life can be so unfair!


Usually, I have witticism, or an observation, or a joke, or least something interesting to say. It’s one of the few times I was stymied for words.


When I think back about this date, there is something that keeps me up late at night. That this episode may be even more amazing than my humble friend was willing to admit.


The game my date saw was not a speed game as blitz games are a maximum of ten minutes (5 minutes per side). So what my friend saw was more than likely a casual game, with no time controls. So those two men could have been playing slowly. My friend would have probably learned the game more quickly if those players were moving faster. Would she have learned the game in only five minutes if those two were playing a speed game?


Something to wonder about.



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