I have always been interested in travel since my first major trip to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Seeing that brand new shiny Space Needle, gave me a desire to see more of the world. I have been fortunate to be able to travel to 58 countries.
I became a teacher and started a chess club at my school. At that time the local county chess organization was forming so I joined to promote scholastic chess in Orange County, California.
They decided upon a free scholastic tournament that was later to be known as the Morrison Scholastic. It is now in its 35th year, and I have organized, supported and attended this event since it start in 1974.
One time, many years ago, a young student named Julian appeared and signed in to play. He had great difficulty walking and used crutches to get around. As the next few years passed he continued to come to the Morrison and was successful and placed in the top three in his grade. After he completed high school, I didn’t see him anymore.
I continued to travel after I retired from teaching in 2000. I was on a Holland America cruise ship off the coast of Chile when I happened to see a man I thought I recognized.
I approached him and said, “Is your name Julian and do you play chess?” He replied, “Yes to both parts of your question.” I then asked him if he had ever played in the Morrison Scholastic Chess Tournament in Buena Park, California. He said, “Yes, and you must be Mr. Barber.” I was surprised to encounter him on a cruise ship so far from home.
After talking with him for a few minutes, I learned he had completed school and was working at Cal Tech. Of course, we had to count the number of years since he had played in the Morrison. As it turned out, it was 25 years since I had seen him. We played several games of chess on board the ship as we went around the tip of South America and visited Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
There is something that I often say to young people who are starting out in chess that I wanted to share with you: “The beauty of chess is that it will create lifelong friendships that make the world a little smaller.”
Finally, as I approach the 35th Annual Morrison Scholastic on March 7, I know that the young people who attend will once again reaffirm the statement above.
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– GM Susan Polgar