The first rule of Chess Club is...
YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT CHESS CLUB.
Second rule of Chess Club...
YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT CHESS CLUB.
Everyone who was anyone went to Chess Club, and our school team was the pride of the borough.
Now, it won’t surprise you to find out that I was not the greatest chess player, I think that was clear to all. But I did learn a great deal about life, love and human behaviour whilst playing chess, for I found it to be a window to the soul, and I’m grateful for a certain amount of the unrelenting indoctrination that was provided.
There were many egg-headed offspring at my school that spent every available second of the day reading chess books, perfecting strategies, sage techniques and killer moves.
They was disciplined, and organised.
I had no special information or carefully planned tactics, but I had other skills. I was advanced emotionally, if not academically, and therefore used psychological tricks to put off or upset my opponents. Sometimes I would just stare at them and smile, to make them feel uncomfortable, or perhaps feign injury to distract, or garner sympathy. Other times I’d calmly ask them questions about their family to break their iron will, cause a loss of focus and force mistakes.
It was dog-eat-dog, and I was a Doberman.
I played at many tournaments, and was occasionally successful.
Chess tournaments are extremely strange. Partly because they are unusually lucrative in terms of prize money, but also because no parents are ever allowed there. Or at least, that’s what the parents told us.
Very clever, parents are.
If you’re not participating, chess tournaments must be up there with Rhyl, Chernobyl and Robert Kilroy-Silk’s house as destinations to avoid at all costs. When your kid plays conventional sports you can shout encouragement from the sidelines, chat to other parents, or bring the dog and take it for walkies. At chess tournaments there is no talking, and having a personality is like having cholera – unwelcome. Libraries, The Moon and graveyards have significantly livelier atmospheres, so for the poor incumbent onlooker, it must have been like walking on 10 miles of dead road.
My uniquely illegal tactics had proved popular with the ‘powers that be’ (if not my opponents), and I was a wild card selection to form part of a regional team to play in the National Chess Championships.
There were 5 of us, taking on all comers up and down the land:
• JUSTIN ‘The Kid’ CORBETT
• LARRY ‘Small Step For’ MANN
• RICHARD ‘Rich’ PICKENS
• SCOTT ‘Chips’ PETERSON
NICHOLAS ‘The Doberman’ CRESSWELL
We were known as ‘The 5 Musketeers’ - by ourselves.
We were good.
And we won the whole competition.
You may remember reading about the famous victory on page 6 in the local newspaper.
“Smile, Nick, smile” shouted everyone, as our pictures were being taken. I was too busy concentrating on hiding from the camera to smile.
What happened to the successful Under-9 National Championship winning Chess Team, and where are they now, you may ask?
Well, I think Corbett, a clean living family man with teeth like a Grand National winner, is currently serving HM The Queen, as a royal footman.
Mann, a ubiquitous former ombudsman, is now serving up food in the café at M&S in Richmond.
Pickens, a charming former farmer, formed a firm of tennis academies, and is now serving up forehands as a professional coach.
As for ‘Chips’ Peterson, unfortunately he’s serving time in Wandsworth Prison for benefit fraud, having claimed substantial quantities of money over many years for his 6 children.
Chips Peterson does not have any children.