“Can we do chess Uncle Johnnie?”
This is what my niece Freya – three years old as of yesterday - says when she wants to play.
Three or four months ago I noticed that Freya seemed to be very curious about the clipboard chess set that I’d left lying around one day so I opened it up and showed her the board and pieces.
“What is it?” she asked.
“That’s chess Freya.”
“What does it do?”
At first I thought I’d have to make up some kind of game for her to play to keep her interested. Pairs seemed to be a good idea but Freya seemed to find it difficult to distinguish the pieces and in any event I soon discovered the set itself was more than enough. She really enjoys just moving the pieces around and making up patterns.
On Boxing Day I was checking my games on Red Hot Pawn and Freya took one look at the screen and exclaimed “That’s chess!” Pretty soon she was playing through one of my games on chessbase, quickly grasping how to move the pieces back and forth using the arrows on the keyboard.
I’d assumed that Freya's fascination with chess would wear off pretty quickly but when I saw her the other day she was really upset that I’d forgotten to bring my set with me. I did have my laptop with me but after a quick go on chessbase she asked,
“Can we do proper chess now?”
I guess she likes being able to put the pieces wherever she wants them rather than being constrained to pre-existing patterns.
I suppose at some point Freya will be ready to learn the moves. I've no idea when that will be or how I’ll go about teaching her. I imagine I’ll just play it by ear, perhaps starting with Fox and Geese as suggested on a recent ChessPub thread.
I know one thing though – since Freya has the bad/good (delete as you feel appropriate) luck to be born to non-playing parents I’ll have to be taking my responsibilities as Chess Uncle most seriously :-).
She didn't solve it.
It turns out I'm not the only Uncle Chess at S&BCC. Here's a picture of Angus' nephew also taken at Christmas.