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Quarantine Blog, Day Eighty-Two

We’ve all seen the news.

Fires in D.C, Chicago, New York.

Closer to home in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Detroit.

There are, however, moments that have brought us more joy than anger.

The movement is making strides. Change is happening.

And it won’t stop so long as we keep fighting.

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That being said, today I picked up a copy of the Northern Express. It felt like the first time in a good long while that I’ve actually gotten a paper while out and about.

If you’re not familiar, the Northern Express is a northern Michigan publication that has focuses on arts, entertainment, news, and lifestyle. It’s based in Traverse City, but also distributes 30,000 copies a week across the whole region.

The first piece that caught my eye today wasn’t about the riots. It wasn’t particularly about Covid, though it did have the idea in the title.

Its main focus was chess.

“Benjamin Franklin was a serious chess player who was captivated by the game’s metaphorical possibilities,” Isiah Smith wrote to open his piece on page eight of the Express, directly after the sometimes sad but ever-entertaining Crime and Rescue columns.

Chess in the Time of Corona,” Smith titled it.

In the piece he digs into the American Revolution, David Shenk’s “The Immortal Game” (a book based on the history of chess), Maurice Ashely (an African American grandmaster of chess who’s devoted in bringing chess to inner-city schools), and of course Benjamin Franklin.

And that vague description hardly scratches the surface.

Especially the way that Smith writes about it.

When Smith writes, it seems as if the game of chess can bring more hope in what seems to be the new age that should be coming up as we fight against tyranny.

I remember playing with my brother, Noah, as we grew up together.

On one of his countless boards, and one of the countless sets.

If you knew him, it should come as no surprise that we played together. Maybe even less of a surprise that he kicked my ass every time except for one.

And I’m pretty sure that one was just him letting me win, but I never complained.

Especially when losing to him helped me win against everyone else that I played against. Specifically, the time I beat my friend Ezra by using a technique called “castling,” before going to my sophomore year homecoming when I was sixteen.

Isiah Smith reminded me today of those memories.

I reached out to him and asked if it would be okay for me to cite his story in my blog, and he was happy to have me do so.

Mr. Smith, thank you for bringing back a fond memory of my brother.

I miss him every day until it hurts, but the lights that turn on in my head, and the gears that start to grind when one of the happy moments cascade back into my mind makes everything a little bit easier.

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Micah Mabey

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