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Monday, October 01, 2007

Women and the "I'm a Guy Syndrome"

This is Steven Petrick Writing.

There is an article in today's paper talking about the trouble a female chess master is having gaining acceptance.

Shows how little things have changed.

When I was a kid, my father taught me to play chess. He explained the rules, and showed them to me, and then never, ever, let me win. This despite the fact that I would (according to my relatives) pretty much throw a tantrum when I lost. My dad, however, knew that I would be back, and his refusal to let me win was eventually rewarded with my beating him, and also with my learning to accept defeat in a good game graciously.

At that time, there were three "girls next door". This at the age where not much attention was paid to that fact. There were, however, some unspoken rules of masculinity that had somehow been inculcated.

There were a lot of games that were played with the Girls next door (one on either side of us, and one directly behind us). The board games available were Parcheesi, and Monopoly, and of course there was croquette. But eventually other games were released of a more "military" bend. ("Battlecry" about the American Civil War, "Dogfight" set in the skies of World War I, and "Broadside" set in the naval era of the War of 1812, being three of a set of four, the fourth I cannot recall the name of, but involved World War II action versus the Japanese.)

Having become quite good at chess, the game of the four I was most interested in was Broadside. Since (unlike the other three) there was no element of chance (i.e., no random die roll), but it was all skill. Your ships were things to be sacrificed to achieve the victory (either sink the four merchantmen in the harbor, or protect them, depending on your side).

One day I got to play that game against one of the "Girls Next Door". (It saddens me to admit that I only remember the name of one of them, and really should have remembered the name of this one as she was, honestly, the most "interesting" of the three to me . . . perhaps because she would play "Broadside".)

And I found myself LOSING. And this was embarrassing beyond my ability to comprehend.

I could not lose to a girl. This could not happen. It must not happen. Was she that good? Had I perhaps not been playing as well as I could?

Truth to tell, somehow I pulled the game out, winning literally with my last ship with its last sail managing to sink the last merchantman before she could maneuver one of her remaining ships to get the final "broadside" on me. And, no, she did not let me win.

Older now, I find my interest in a female opponent is one of trying to see if there is some "difference" in the way they play compared to the males I have faced. I am old enough now that, if the lady across the board gains a well earned victory, handing me a defeat, it does not make me feel somehow threatened. (At least no more so than if another guy is the one that pounded me to chutney.)

Now, through the benefit of my years and my experience, I can face such a loss, and at the end extend my hand to congratulate the victor, and ask only "what took you so long to get here?"

I honestly look forward to the day the "Captain's Hat" is won by a woman.