A Lot Can Be Accomplished With A Good Library



I had the good fortune to live on Okinawa for just under three years. I say "good fortune" because it's an interesting place to see and a place with a lot of history, particularly World War II history.

But I'm a family man, and the things a family man does don't vary much, no matter where he may happen to be. I worked, maintained our home, helped my wife raise our two children, watched a little television, read, went to an occasional movie, and so on. I'm still doing the same things now, except for the child-rearing part, and still enjoying them.

Unfortunately, my next-door neighbor was not quite as content as I was.

Gunnerts, my neighbor, (you can pronounce his name as gunner, it's a Norwegian name), was bored. As a result, he had taken up chess, about which I knew virtually nothing.

One evening, not long after my family settled in, Gunnerts came over to the house with his chessboard.

"Game?" he asked me.

"All I know is how each piece moves," I told him. "I won't be much competition."

"That's OK," he said, grinning.

That evening, as our wives chatted, we played eight games of chess.

Score: Gunnerts 8, Tom 0. The next evening Gunnerts came over again. Again, we played eight games with the same result.

The next evening, the third in a row, Gunnerts showed up with his board. We played the same number of games, and I lost the same number of games.

"Well," Gunnerts said. "I may as well leave this board over here. It's the only place I use it."

Now, I'm a fairly easygoing person. I wasn't at all disturbed by the fact that I had taken a three-night drubbing. In fact, it was fun doing something different. But there's a limit.

I came away that night with a rather unhappy image in my head of the time I had left on Okinawa: Eight hundred evenings of eight games of chess a night and eight losses. That could get downright boring.

During lunch the next day I went to the base library and found an entry level book on chess. If you've ever happened to open a book on chess, you know they use diagrams of the board to teach you strategy and tactics. This one, however, was so much of a kiddie book they assumed the reader didn't even know the symbols for the pieces. They used actual photographs of a chess board. The book had large print and did not go into much detail, but I read it when I got home, finishing it up just before Gunnerts, as expected, arrived.

Result: Three games with one win, one loss, and one draw.

Secondary result: Gunnerts took his board home and only brought it over a half dozen or so times in the remaining months I spent on the island.

Tertiary result (how about that for a nice word?): I became president of the base chess club, ended up playing in the all-Pacific chess tournament, and still play an occasional game of chess.

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