Monday, August 22, 2011

Anyone for chess?

This picture tells a sad story about priorities and cultural decline. In a corner of the mezzanine floor of the local library (or is it a community center now?), pushed up against an air-conditioning vent and adjacent to a fire extinguisher, sits a chess table and chairs. The pieces are set up - albeit that the kings and queens are on the wrong squares (white queen should be on white, black queen on black); and albeit that one pawn and one knight have gone missing! A tradesman has left a small paint brush on the table which nobody has bothered to remove.

When the chess table first appeared a few years ago it occupied a prime site within the library, but I have it on good authority that it was virtually never used.

In itself a trivial matter, but symbolic - and indicative not only of cultural trends but also of the pitfalls of public sector decision-making.


  1. White to the right, queen on color. At least the board is oriented correctly. It's built into the table. I tried to build a table like that in shop class in high school. Got bogged down making perfect little squares to inlay into the top. I used to love the game but began to find only two classes of player: the total duffer who knows only the rudiments, and the shark. I thought I was pretty good until I stopped into an espresso cafe in NYC one night and got thoroughly punished twice, by an Arab and a Greek. It's a thoughtful game, with many subtleties. A great game for ruminators. People dont seem to have the patience to ruminate anymore. And thus ... a sign of the times.

  2. Yes, chess is a beautiful game. It will survive even if it becomes less mainstream. For me, the advent of chess-playing computers has taken the gloss off - or the magic out of - the game to some extent.