Chess, along with the Scientific Society, formed a significant part of my schooldays. I joined the Chess Club in my first year, aged 11, and went to the after-school meetings on Tuesday evenings. We played each other and gradually improved, as one does. We learned the classic openings, the sacrifice plays, the gambits, and how to think ahead and anticipate our opponents' moves and plan counter-strategies.
The school chess team played other schools. On Saturdays, when the bus took our football and cricket team to play other schools, there would sometimes be a team of 5 or 6 of us to play against their chess team.
My friend David Osborne and I became seriously interested and started reading books on chess. We subscribed to Chess Magazine which came monthly from Sutton Coldfield, and we devoured its games, replaying them in the library at lunchtime. We recorded our own games and learned the theory and the names of the chess openings. I developed a taste for what was called hypermodern chess, which sought to control the game from the wings instead of trying to occupy and dominate the centre.
More often than not I played the Reti Opening as white, and used Alekhine's defence as black against a king's pawn opening. Part of the advantage these gave me was that these were relatively obscure openings, and most people did not learn how to deal with them as they did with the more conventional openings.
David and I even attended a chess festival at Whitby and took part in tournament play there. We were about equal in standard. In the school chess championships David did me a great favour by beating the school's champion, Roy Hill, who was one year ahead of us. With him knocked out, David and I went on to become the two finalists. Although David played better that day, I had a fluke victory by what chess-players call a 'swindle.' That is when your opponent fails to notice that you have a checkmating move, and fails to defend against it. I thus acquired a championship shield, and had my name engraved on the school cup.
I played chess at university, and was on the university team, but I've barely played since. I realized that to be really good you have to devote your life to it, with hours of practice every day. I thought there were more worthwhile things to spend my life doing.