An Average Game of Chess

By July 17, 20142014, Europe

One of my favourite aspects of this trip has been observing people in their own environments. Seeing how people spend their time in an ‘everyday’ setting can be a profound insight into the ethos of a culture. I feel privileged when I can experience such a window into someone’s average day. One of these instances happened in Zurich, where Nygel and I were playing chess on one of the oversized boards at Lindenhof.


As soon as we started playing the skies opened up and it began to rain. After the short bout ended, an older gentleman stopped by with an apparent interest in our game. I was unsure as to whether he spoke English or not because he did not say anything to either of us but as Nygel and I exchanged insults and mocked one another, I saw the man smile. About fifteen minutes passed and two more elderly men came and began to watch. Eventually, I suspect out of sheer frustration, one of the men said to me, “do you want to know how you could have ended the game just now?” They were regulars at the massive chess boards, and spoke very good English.


The three presumed retirees continued to give us advice that was not asked for, and then moved on to friendly banter amongst each other. They explained to us that they came to these boards regularly in order to talk about chess and sports, and as they spoke I could sense they had talked about these things with one another over countless afternoon chess games similar to this one. Although this experience in Zurich may have been potentially mundane, I think it will remain in my memory with more prominence than many of the more glamorous venues of tourist Europe.


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