Volume 2 Number 2
Chess Was My Life
01 February 1989
I found relationships with girls difficult and withdrew into myself. My life became whatever was before my nose - and that was chess.
By IAN HEALEY
If someone had asked me four years ago what I was living for, there could have been little doubt. I had buried myself in the only thing I was good at - playing chess.
In all else I felt a failure. Though we were a one-parent family, I had a happy childhood and loved my mother very much. But as I grew older, I found relationships with girls difficult and withdrew into myself. My life became whatever was before my nose - and that was chess.
At first it was fun - winning and losing were just by-products. Then it got serious. Winning became an aim. Losing was unthinkable.
In the midst of this I started to find a faith. My upbringing was Christian - but to me God was simply someone you apologized to if you did something wrong. I went to a conference and met people who had something more. Their warmth was genuine, and it was difficult not to respond. I began to open up the little hurts I had locked away inside me.
People at the conference talked of `absolute love'. But surely I was a loving person, I did care for others. Only a few months earlier I had sat up night after night with a friend who was going through a difficult time.
Then I thought of my father. I knew something in my heart was not right. The space for him was empty. It hung like a stone. I knew that if I wanted to be like these new friends, I had to look closely at what `absolute love' meant for me. I wrote to my father telling him of all the times I had 'killed him off' when it was inconvenient to explain our relationship - like in French oral exams at school. I said I was sorry and asked him to forgive me. And I meant it. It was still some time before we met.
Before that, however, other things happened. God started to become real. My friends told me that God could speak to me if I was silent, wrote down my thoughts and checked them with the teachings of my faith. It seemed crazy but I tried it. I found myself breaking out of my introverted shell. Then came a thought I did not expect, `Could you give up chess for God?' This was the limit. Chess was my life, it filled my mind as well as all my free time. Could I give up living? The early stages of looking for God's guidance had been so exciting that I felt I could obey this thought too. A great empty void stretched out before me.
At this stage Dad and I met up again. My new-found love for him threatened to burst my heart, and we grew closer each time we met. My attitude towards my job changed, and I became a generally more confident person. It seems strange to surrender the deepest things in one's heart, but I have found a purpose for living that I had never known.
As I have given to God, He has given me more in return. Some months later I felt I should take up chess again - and all the friendships and teamwork that went with it. I played with a new spirit and joy - a peace that comes from playing for the game's sake. The results were even better than before, capped by my team winning the British Intermediate Championship.
I am on the road to a faith. Though it is long and rocky I know it is the right road, and I plan to follow it to the end.