Whenever we’d visit my grandparents, I was sent downstairs to the basement with instructions to play quietly. My grandmother had a small square table where I’d sit and draw or play with whatever little toy I’d brought with me. It wasn’t until I was about ten years old that I discovered the table’s secret: the corners flipped open to reveal a chess table. This was the childhood version of winning the lottery and I excitedly ran up the stairs to share my discovery with anyone that would listen.
My grandmother saw my excitement and shared the table’s other secrets. There was a hidden drawer that housed chess pieces and an additional top that turned the small table into a four person card table. My interest was very much piqued and when we got home, I badgered my father into teaching me to play chess.
I never developed into a chess master or joined a chess team but I had a basic enough understanding that I could play against my dad at home and my grandmother when we visited. Playing those games was the first time I remember feeling like a real grownup. It didn’t matter how old I was or how big I was – all that mattered was my ability to play the game. When I got married, my grandmother handed down her table to me. It has a special place in my home and I’m quick to show off its hidden compartment full of chess pieces.
In a world filled with smartphones, touchscreen tablets, and video games, you’d be forgiven for thinking that my table is little more than a quaint reminder of my youth. The reality, though, couldn’t be further from the truth. Traditional parlor games (including card games) are undergoing a renaissance and a new generation is discovering the pleasures of these elegant pastimes.
Technology has undoubtedly increased efficiency and the spread of information but social media isn’t a replacement for face-to-face connections and the strengthening of relationships that come from personal interaction. Traditional games provide a more intimate experience where players can carry on a conversation, share a laugh, and create memories and shared experiences. Parents can reconnect with their children while grandparents and grandchildren develop bonds that last a lifetime.
While anyone can buy tabletop games, a dedicated games table provides a feeling of permanence and purpose. The time spent together sitting at my grandmother’s table didn’t happen by accident and reinforced the idea that family time is something more than just a date circled on a calendar. It was a place to learn creativity, math, and logic as well as sportsmanship, patience, and fair play.
In addition to the intellectual and familial advantages, there’s also an esthetic benefit. A beautifully crafted games table provides a room with an air of sophistication and timeless elegance. Whether it’s being added to a dedicated games room or is simply an accent piece in an existing room, these graceful tables are always a well received addition. I’m fortunate to have a home filled with interesting objects but my grandmother’s games table is what elicits the most questions and starts the most conversations.
Five Reasons to Play Chess