Dzien Dobry Chess


Dewain Barber

June 14, 2014

As I looked out the window of the new Mercedes Benz bus, I realized I was in another country I had never visited before. It was a strange feeling to go to a country where the signs were in a foreign language. Millions of people do this every day and basic communication is really an art form. That is why chess is so neat because everyone speaks a common language: chess.
This is the 90th country I have visited, and I find it just as exciting as my first foreign country. My goal, once again, is to play a recreational chess game with a local. If you cannot speak the language, it is not an easy task when you do not know anyone in the cities, towns or villages you visit. Bus tours get you out on the road, and you get to use the same restaurants, pharmacies and other services the locals use.
As always I consulted with the tour guide. In this case it was a young lady, Katarzyna Nizynsko, who was born in Poland, but spent some time in Belgium which allowed her to learn several languages. When she returned, she decided to dedicate herself to showing people her native country.
I usually allow a day or two before I ask my proverbial question. I said to her on the third day, “I would like to play a casual game of chess with someone in this country. Can you check around and see what you might find?”
She replied, “I will check, but our time will be short as we have many places to visit and most days we will arrive just before dinner.” I had no problem with her answer because I understood the challenge of fulfilling a request from a member of a tour group.
As I was about to go to my seat, she turned and asked the bus driver, Michal Potemski, if he knew of anyone who played chess. His reply shocked both Katarzyna and myself. “Yes”, he replied, “I play chess.”

Michal and Dewain

Michal and Dewain

I stood there with my mouth open in disbelief. I said to him, “Let us talk when you have a break.” He nodded in agreement, and I went to my seat for the ride to the next city, Gdansk.
When we stopped at a rest stop on our trip, I asked Michal if he was available that evening after dinner. He replied, “I certainly am, and I will meet you in the lobby.” I mentioned that I had an Ultimate folding magnetic set and would see him after dinner.
In our first game, I learned that sometimes a player can mount a strong defense without castling. It took a large number of moves to break through and finally win after multiple exchanges.
The next morning our tour guide asked how the game went. Both Michal and I replied that it was great, and we had agreed to play again that evening. She then reminded me that Michal was driving the bus so I should not keep him up too late. He and I both nodded; but as we looked at each other, we knew we would play for the fun and excitement like two kids with a new toy.
After working hard in the first game, I knew Michal was not going to give up. Game two was as rich with moves as game one, and I fell behind quickly and was two pawns down before I found a series of checks that resulted in a win. This guy was good and he gave no ground during the game. I asked him if he was up for another game, and he replied with a smile, “Yes.”
As we readied ourselves to proceed with the third game, I commented, “Thank you for the opportunity to play these three games of chess in Poland. You have two things about your game that I admire very much. First and foremost, you smile and enjoy yourself regardless of the move or result in the game; and second, you pause and examine the position before making any move, even the obvious or necessary move.”
The third game turned out to be the longest with an endgame that kept me counting the number of squares my king had to traverse in order to help pass a pawn. I was fortunate that my king was in a good position so I finally passed a pawn and won the game. We shook hands and wished each other a good night.
The next morning I noticed a worried look on our tour guide’s face as I came out to board the bus. Late last night, a person shot out the rear window of the bus with what was likely a BB gun. The shattered window would require a replacement bus because our bus was going into the shop for repair. That problem and my evening folklore show ended my chess activity, but I was still happy that we had played three good games of chess.

Note:  Dzien Dobry is Good Day in Polish.