ONE DAY IN LITTLE ROCK (AND THE WORLD'S YOUR OYSTER)
Tara and I don't know much about the art of playing chess. In fact, what we do know is limited to what we learned from Murray Head's hypnotic hit "One Night In Bangkok", and what we gleaned from various Wu-Tang Clan songs and interludes over the years.
So why wouldn't we find ourselves in the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda, helping setup for the first ever Arkansas Scholastic Youth Chess Tournament? It only made sense.
As we entered the building, the echo of our footsteps on the gleaming marble floors felt intimidating. We knew nothing of chess, little of Little Rock, and were about to be inundated with over a hundred tournament participants/children on spring break. We were sacrificial pawns on the chessboard of this tournament. After a few nervous minutes spent sitting alone under the gaze of a portrait of former governor William Jefferson Clinton, Tiffany, a representative from the Songbird Multimedia and Performing Arts Foundation, walked in, followed shortly by Mel, the event coordinator and head of the Kings Chess organization. We immediately confessed our ignorance. "We know nothing about chess," I blurted out. With a chuckle, Mel dismissed our fears. "That's alright. We've still got plenty for you to do."
And so they did. We setup tables and chessboards (with some help from Mel and Google), registered participants, served lunches, cleaned-up, and did anything else non-game related that was needed.
All the while, we observed and were humbled by the boys and girls competing. Their knowledge and their discipline were impressive. And frankly, that's the point.
Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov once said, "Chess helps you to concentrate, improve your logic. It teaches you to play by the rules and take responsibility for your actions, how to problem solve in an uncertain environment." In other words, chess prepares you for life.
The day moved forward one round at a time. The number of remaining participants grew smaller. A few tears were shed. State officials mingled with the children and their parents. The organizers and judges continued to teach the kids about tournament play. Awards and trophies were handed out. And then suddenly, it was mid-afternoon and we found ourselves where we started. Just Mel, Tiffany, Tara, and me. The echo of our footsteps and voices filling the once again empty rotunda.
We seemed to all give out a collective exhale. Tiffany looked relieved. Mel's face showed excitement, even if his body was showing the signs of a long day. Tara and I just looked a little less confused than when the day started. But we all knew the day had been an unmitigated success.
As Mel put it the next day, "Kings Chess powered by Songbird Multimedia threw the first chess tournament ever hosted in the Arkansas State Capital. We not only made Black History, we made American history, and Arkansas history."
Not to brag, but Tara and I made a bit of history as well. Regarding chess pieces, we learned that the horse is called a knight, and the castle is called a rook. Look out Garry Kasparov.