One incredible thing about learning how to play chess, is that it helps one learn how to efficiently deal with loses even in real life situations, whether you believe it or not.
I am sure I can not count the number of times I had sworn to never play chess again after losing very painful games (games I really ought to have won).
A perfect example was my game against the former Nigeria National Champion, FM John Fawole, at the 2017 episode of the Flaming Knights Tournament, which took place in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. It was a game in the penultimate round of the tournament, I was on Board 2, and I needed to win in order to finally get to play against the tournament leader in the last round. I had played so well and we had reached an end game where I had an absolutely winning position, which was only a bit tricky to convert, though I had more than enough time to fashion out the win.
However, I suddenly became over-confident and dabbled away my winning chances with just one careless move, which eventually cost me the game, as I lost it brilliantly. If I had won that game, I would have gotten the opportunity to play for the N250k grand prize or gone home with at least N150k as second prize. I was more than upset with myself; I was literally depressed and could not make any reasonable speech with anyone for nearly 30 minutes. I lost focus, lost the zeal to ever play chess again!
My last round game was against International Master Oladapo Adu. I lost very quickly as I blitzed through the game. I carried on the negativity from the missed opportunities in my previous game, and it affected me consequently.
Fast forward to this present day…
During one of our training sessions with the children we train in Majidun, some of them walked up to me and kept screaming about how they beat their opponents. They were so excited. It was their first chess game ever. The feeling of victory cannot be compared to anything else anyway: it’s pure bliss.
So I asked a question, which I was not expecting a serious answer to.
I asked, “What if you lost, what then do you do?”
The children looked at me puzzled. Some were mumbling, “No oh! I can’t lose” (in their local dialect). Then one girl looked up and said, “Uncle if I lost, I would arrange the board and play again.”
I was struck by her response. I thought to myself, “That’s the spirit of a champion,
a fighter, one who never gives up.”
That girl’s name is Chisom. She is one of our most outstanding players. Her daring attitude reflects in the way she plays chess fearlessly.
During our last training session, I noticed she was not her usual self and I asked what was wrong. She said she had not had anything to eat all day. I felt pained because I could relate to her position; I had been there several times before.
I took her outside and bought her food. I watched her rejoin her mates, feeling renewed and ready to take on her next opponent.
The team decided to pay her family a visit after the classes. When we got there, I sighed heavily.
Her mother, along with her four elder sisters, live in a one-room shack.
We realized that she did not resume school because her uniform was torn and she had no notebooks.
We visited her school yesterday, got the list of all the exercise books and text books she’ll be needing for the session, we also took her measurement for two new school uniforms. (Courtesy: Mrs. Rabiu Olabisi, the Lagos state chess coach).
I saw Chisom grin. It was a surprise visit to her school and she has found a new and lovely family in the Chess-In-Slums team.
We shall not relent till all 60 of the children we train get their stories re-told.
While we are training them to become free thinkers and Chess youngsters, we will hold their hands and help them champion the course of their lives
Every child deserves to be a champion in their own way.