Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Voiceless Old Man

I was born in Baku, and spent there the first 16 years of my life. When I was nine or ten, I often went to the park near our house to play chess with older chess lovers. There were almost no tournaments at that time, where young players could play with seniors and because of that these park-battles were good school for me. Initially, the local "authorities" were mercilessly beating me, but because unlike them I have also trained at home, soon the situation changed. The whipping boy had become one of the leaders of the "community." I was the only child in the company therefore I had most of fans. When I was playing, they surrounded the bench and passionately commented my every move. If I won, the joy of fans knew no bounds.

But among fans there was an old man who never said a word. He always sat at the side of me watching the game quietly. Not just he seemed without comments or the usual witty retorts so typical for such a gathering; no one has even heard his voice. He never played - just observed. One day someone asked him: "Vladimir Andreevich, please play with the boy - it would be so interesting!" The old man silently sat in front of me, took the black pieces and the game has started. Already on the way he played the opening, I realized that this time I have a very tough opponent. Soon my pieces were unusually crowded. A few moves later my position crumbled like a damp plaster from the ceiling. Totally flustered, I gave up. And at that time the man who suggested the match addressed me: "Do not be upset, baby, you played Makogonov just now".

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