Chess and Chivalry: A Father’s Perspective

By Albert Chincuanco

2014DadsChessTournamentFinalOne school night two weeks ago, our son JohnPaul (3rd grader at WA) walked over to my wife and handed her a nicely folded piece of paper. She opened it, and a few seconds later I noticed that her eyes glittered with a great smile. Mother and son immediately embraced and kissed each other. At this point, I thought: he must have aced a difficult test.

“Your son wrote me a love letter, daddy!” she tells me.

I said, “Wow, JohnPaul! When did you write it?”

His reply, “We wrote the letters during Chess and Chivalry.”

In a flash, I finally understood why Chess and Chivalry was taught at Western.

I admit that once I discovered that Chess and Chivalry was indeed a class at Western, I was surprised and slightly puzzled. My preconditioned brain automatically presumed the romanticized vision of medieval Western Europe where chivalry was the ideal and heroic battles were the epic stories we tell to this day. After all, these themes are forever appealing to young boys’ minds. With that thought, I was pleased with it. While this class may use Chess and Chivalry and teach them about that historical period, it was that single piece of paper containing a priceless love letter from a son to a mother that allowed me to see why such a class is good and even necessary.

It is not so much the sentimentality to medieval times. Far beyond that, Chess and Chivalry is really about all of us. As a father, I pray my children have hearts that are strong and alive, a heart that has the capacity to love what is True, Good and Beautiful. This is a recurring theme at Western— to enliven the heart. As fathers, we are in a constant struggle to model the virtues of the heart for our children in our personal and professional lives, but this mission is essential in our roles as protector and provider.

We fathers of these boys also need to remember that amid the routine and ‘daily grind’ of our responsibility to provide, we still have our own heart to consider, and it is important to purify, strengthen and grow it. We grow old when this heart hardens and stagnates. Our families, friends, and co-workers suffer when we are apathetic. Our marriage weakens when we are less loving to our wife. Our kids become sad when we’re not affectionate or approachable. Basic? Yes. Important? Crucial.

We have a faculty and staff that are wholeheartedly committed to help us in this process. Through their friendship and instruction; these men train our boys’ hearts, alongside their expanding brains and shoe sizes. C.S. Lewis, in seeing the negative trajectory of the school systems in his time, wrote that one day men will no longer have chests, that men will be technically savvy and calculating but dangerously savage. At Western these marvelous chests are growing. What might seem superfluous at first, like the Chess and Chivalry class, might just be one of the most influential forces in shaping our boys to become good men in the long run.

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