It was probably our first or second real game after I’d learnt how the pieces actually moved, what was allowed and what wasn’t, and what you’re supposed to do. My father played white and opened in a very traditional way – P-K4 (Pawn to King-4). This is the way that most of our games would start in those days.
I was in first grade at Princes Hill Primary School, and we had recently moved to St Phillip Street in a small half house behind a Spotless Dry-Cleaners. It hadn’t been such a good day either, because I had gotten into trouble, so I decided to tell my Dad all about it.
Meanwhile I replied with P-K4 myself. Great, the game was quite normal.
I started telling him what had happened. “Well you see, we were in School Assembly. I was standing next to David Grossman* and Tony Capello* was in front of me. I found a little pin on the floor and picked it up.”
“Hmmm”, said my father. “I wonder what that pin was doing there”, and then he moved B-B4 (Bishop to Bishop-4).
I didn’t answer that question, but continued my story “I took the pin, and pricked Tony on the bum. He gave out a loud yelp and the teacher asked what happened. Tony told him, and Miss Allwell made me stand in the corner. I was so upset.”
I then moved B-B4 too. My Dad had taught me to develop my pieces, concentrating on the middle of the board, and setting up a tactical defence which would also be the springboard of a counter-attack later.
“Why on earth did you do that?” he asked. “Why would you do such a thing??”
And he ominously moved Q-B3 (Queen to Bishop-3), which I was to learn was a common if unsubtle trap for beginners.
“Well”, I said. “I did it because David Grossman told me to do it”. There you go. Not only was that a fantastic reason in my thinking, it was also the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… Your Honour.
I then played N-QR3 (Knight to Queen-Rook-3), for some unknown reason.
My father then taught me two very valuable lessons. The first was to be an independent thinker and to be responsible for my own actions. “If David told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?” Wow, what answer could I give to that?
The second was QxP Checkmate!! Watch the whole board and don’t get sucked in. He got me with what’s known in Yiddish as a Schiesterisher matt, which literally means Cobbler’s Mate, but is known in English as Scholars’ Mate or Schoolboys’ Mate. How Appropriate!
*Real names have been changed to protect the innocent.