Chess and Matinis at Six Below

I dug out my martini shaker tonight, in spite of solemn vows made on a number of occasions, to toast my buddy Casey, who lived here at Harmony House for nearly ten years while he was a student and later a computer guy at Hampshire College.

I recall sitting on the front porch sipping martinis with Casey when it was six below. With our lap rugs and longjohns we were proof against the elements. We would play chess and indulge our nicotine addiction and share our observations of the world — a lot like James Spader and William Shatner on Boston Legal.

We played games from the wonderful chess books by Irving Chernev, as well as games of our own, of course, many of which we attempted to record. When I try to play them out, though, I find there’s almost always a move missing which makes them hard to reconstruct — must have been the martinis.

Casey was new to chess, so I had a few decades of experience in my favor, but it didn’t take long for him to hold his own, and eventually he beat me more often than not. We generally played the King’s Gambit because the games tend to be brief, one way or the other. If Black jumps on his offensive possibilities right off the bat, he can often gain a quick win, but White has lots of chances, too.

I remember we were both spellbound playing out the games of Petrosian, the master who won by retreating. Of course we could never have reached that level of understanding without Chernev’s brilliant commentaries.

Then Casey set up a monitor on the porch and we watched all the Bob Hope Bing Crosby movies and three or four seasons of Sex and the City, and a season of Down Under. It was very interesting to compare perspectives, the twenty-something and the forty-something.

I learned a lot about the unique universe of Hampshire College and shared bits of my world as a stockhandler at Yankee Candle.

In the end a confluence of psychoses among the housemates obliged Casey to decamp, but those psychos are all gone now, and it seems right and fitting to sip a few matinis and recollect a rare friendship.