Sanctuary: Chess and the quality of distraction

Calle Nine

Courtesy of Evan P. Cortes

I first met Jin at a computer games arcade in Piccadilly. He was working at his uncle’s restaurant nearby and I found him wondering the aisles of flashing screens, taking shelter from the London rain. A mutual friend had told him that I could help with his English. Desperate as always for money, I agreed to meet him once a week at a café opposite the arcade to practice his conversation skills. I was an anxious and impatient teacher though and it didn’t take long for our lessons to break down into confusion and silence. Jin, for his part however, was always comfortable in these silences and he seemed content to go on paying me for them. I eventually got the impression that he wouldn’t say much, even if he could speak English. He had a sense of serenity about him that seemed almost supernatural to me as we sat…

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