Chess master shares some moves


Lindell John Kay


Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

News doesn’t just happen during business hours so reporters at the Tarboro Weekly and Rocky Mount Telegram take turns working one weekend a month.

Usually weekend duty is a bore, but this time around, it was pretty awesome for me. So cool the drizzling rain couldn’t ruin it.

First up was Saturday’s Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival. In its 46th year, the event attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of folks from all over the state and beyond. Think Happening on the Common, but with pumpkins.

Food included funnel cakes, caramel apples, cotton candy, snow cones, shaved ice, lemonade, homemade ice cream, and my personal favorite - turkey legs.

Well, my actual favorite is Gator on a Stick. A real treat I discovered in my wife’s native Louisiana at one of the many, many crawdad festivals. But they don’t serve alligator around here - something my wife reminds me of all the time - so I go with the turkey leg. It all tastes like chicken anyway, right?

Working several weekends a year, I end up covering a lot of events like this. So what made the Pumpkin Festival so great? Well, I live in Spring Hope.

The Pumpkin Festival was literally outside my front door. I live in the downtown historic district so I walk outside and down the front steps and I’m there.

The festival was good, but better was going to work without ever moving my car. Talk to a few people and return to my living room to type it up on my laptop while watching an episode of “Narcos.”

Convinence like that is one of the reasons I like working out of the Tarboro Weekly office. There’s nothing like being in the middle of the action. The Tarboro office is a few doors down from city hall, the police station, the courthouse and the county administration building. Of course, the sheriff’s office is all the way out on Anaconda Road, but you can't always get what you want.

My father used to say that all the time. I thought he was such a sage until I got a little older and realized he was just quoting Jagger and Richards.

The festival was fun and all, but it's real benefit was simply ulitarian. Sunday's news provided the real joy of the weekend.

I've been playing chess since I was in second grade. One of my older brothers taught me. I worshiped him, but he had little time for me. Except when we played chess. By the time I was in forth grade, I was beginning to win most of our games. He quit playing me, but it was okay, my hero worship phase was long over with by that time.

I was forth grade chess champion at Grace Christian School. I easily defeated most people I played. My brother had taught me a series of tricks that allowed me to reach checkmate within four moves whenever I was playing a novice.

No matter how good I got at chess, I could never beat my mother at checkers. She was the Bobby Fisher of that game. She would often make quaddrupple jumps. I don't think I ever won a single game against her.

Most people play checkers like its a game for simpletons. But there's just as much strategy involved as in a game of chess.

Late in life, my mother's mind began to fail her, but she could always win at checkers. She learned the game sitting on her daddy's knee during the Great Depression when there was little else to do for fun. I stuck with her and she never lost her edge. Me? I haven't played chess in years.

I thought he was going to talk about Sunday, some of you are probably thinking right about now.

I am: Sunday was geek heaven for me. International chess champion Jude Acers was in town, taking on all challengers — at the same time.

With 50 boards set up around the lobby of the Imperial Centre, Acers walked around, coffee mug in hand, trademark beret on head, and gave local players a right good thrashing.

Organizers offered to let me jump in, but I declined. It wasn't an itch I needed to scratch. But it was tremendously fun watching Acers defeat everyone else.

Before playing everyone, Acers gave a brief chess lesson, masterful in it is simplicity. He said players need to get pieces out across the board and never move pieces to the side.

Acers, who holds the world record for playing 179 simultaneous games of chess, recommended players follow four tips to improve their game:

Obey the touch rule, meaning “if you touch a piece, you have to move it.”

Always write moves down so you can review games later.

Go over and over annotated games of master players.

And get your hands on a copy of “Logical Chess Move by Move” by Irving Chernev.

A complete gentleman, Acers chatted with each player, offering personalized advice while taking their queen and trapping their king.

He's the Charlie Daniels of the chess board, but I bet my mother could have smoked him at checkers.