Chess Speech – Toastmasters April 2008

Mr. Toastmaster, ladies and gentlemen…

What do Karl Marx, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elizabeth I, Willie Nelson and Napoleon all have in common? An adoration for chess, a game that has helped avert wars, convey mathematics, reveal the workings of human memory and distract me on several occasions when I should have been working on a project or studying for a test. Today I want to share with you my experience with this most wonderful game and the impact it has had on my life.

I am forever grateful for a man named Lyle. He was a colleague of my father’s at university. I have never met him nor do I know what he looks like. All I know about him was that he would meet infrequently with my dad to teach him how to play chess. Some twenty years later would bring me to when I was in grade 5, when dad introduced chess to me. I loved the game immediately and was eager to learn how each piece moved—I wanted to milk from my dad anything that he could teach me. Lyle had taught my dad well and for the first few weeks I could hardly give my dad a challenge.

But that soon changed. When I was in grade 6, my dad had learned of a chess tournament that was happening in Regina and I registered right away. I remember a room full of kids from grades 1 to 12, and packed with chess boards. It was like another world for me, a world of strategy, tactics and competition where I could meet other kids my age and play the game I loved. I came back from that tournament beaming: I had won first place in grade 6, having won all of my 5 games. It began a string of tournaments that would allow me to make many friends and travel all over Canada.

I remember going to my first provincial tournament in Caronport and believing that I could beat anyone. But this attitude did not last very long. I was humbled by a boy named Albert from Saskatoon, who beat me in game 3. I was so devastated that I remember playing terribly in game 4, unable to resolve my grief at losing to Albert. Albert became my chess arch enemy and I knew that I would never feel like a true champion until I could beat Albert.

In grade 7 I was at it again and qualified for provincials. I remember looking at all the other people in my grade and wondering, where was Albert? For some reason he wasn’t able to compete that year. I won all 5 of my games and qualified for nationals in PEI. I was only one member of the Saskatchewan team as there was a member for each grade from 1 to 12. Kris Amundson was the grade 5 player on our team and he and I became friends that year, a friendship that would continue to this very day. At nationals that year I tied for 5th in Canada for my grade.

My real and true victory though came in grade 8 where I saw Albert again at provincials. We had both won 4 games each and would play each other for the 5th game. Even though it was almost 10 years ago, I still remember the game that we played. We were the last 2 kids left playing in the room and all the parents and observers were quietly watching. I managed to break through his defense and even as I looked at the board I couldn’t believe what was happening. I beat Albert that day and finally felt like I deserved to go to nationals that year which was in Calgary.

I could go on and tell you about all the tournaments I went to and many more great experiences but I instead I want to close by telling you about the importance this game has had on my life. In elementary school I remember having a very low self esteem and being very self-conscious about my weight. I didn’t think that I could do anything well and I didn’t like who I was. Chess was the first thing I found in my life that I absolutely fell in love with. I was good at it and stimulated my mind and nourished my intellect. It also came with a lot of other benefits: I met a lot of good friends, some of whom I’m still friends with today. In fact, if you remember, Kris Amundson was someone that I met throughout my years playing chess. Currently we are playing a game over facebook and I’ve spent probably 3 or 4 hours contemplating my next move. Finally, chess taught me how to win, and how to lose. It taught me to be creative and how to take risks and it taught me that even in the most desperate position there might yet be hope. I hope you get the chance to play chess one day and experience this wonderful game and if ever you want to have a game with someone I’m always happy to play. …

My experiences in chess taught me values about life that are very …

Some of my favorite moments in life were when I played chess against a man in a town square while I was traveling in Austriaor when I played a man on the street in the Philippines. …

In closing, if I had it my way I would play chess for hours every day. …

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