Pen Pal Friendships
(Page 6 of 14)
Correspondence Chess Introduced People All Over the World
“Are you some sort of secret agent?” the postman asked me one day.
“Of course not,” I replied, “What makes you think that?”
“You’re always getting letters from Russia and East Germany, and I don’t know where all,” he said.
“Oh,” I replied, “I play chess with people in those countries. We mail our moves back and forth.”
Still seeming skeptical, he said, “I wouldn’t think you’d need to write letters to send a chess move.”
“No, but you know how it is. We get interested in each other and the places where we live, so we usually write a note along with our moves,” I explained.
“Oh,” he said, losing interest.
The truth is that, in correspondence chess, I’ve found a great way to open conversations with fascinating people, especially when playing international tournaments. Games could last a couple of years, and by the end of the games, I would know a lot about my opponents.
I remember a player in France who only wanted to write about philosophy. Another player, an East German, tried to teach me the language. Most of the Russians I’ve played chess with were more reserved, with the conversations being mainly about chess. An Israeli rabbi and I exchanged thoughts about Judaism and Christianity, while a Japanese player wrote very descriptively about his country and traditions. Another player, an Englishman, simply wanted to apologize for his country’s colonial past.
I was amazed at how well the English language was spoken and written around the world. While I essayed to use some of the languages with which I am familiar, I was stumbling along, while most of my pen pals wrote quite well in extremely grammatical English.
The computer has put an end to correspondence chess now, but I’m glad I didn’t miss out on the fun of having so many interesting pen pals from so many different parts of the world.
James - Hartley, Iowa
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