A Common Language

Malden, Massachusetts, has always been a city of immigrants.

Here is a photo of my grandmother Gertrude (lower right) and her three sisters.

They could easily pass for a Hispanic family today.

In my mother’s time, the two main ethnic groups were the Irish and the Italians.
The same was basically true when I grew up there in the 60s (that would be 1960).

Now the students in the Malden Public Schools speak over 60 languages.

These were some of my mother’s classmates (she is on the far right).

These are the typical Malden High School students of today.

(Photo courtesy of Anna Tse)

I walked by the school the other day.

And saw every color of the rainbow.

I saw the same blend across the street at the Malden Public Library.

(Photo by Carol Woodruff)

This is where I teach a kids’ chess class on Wednesdays.

There are lots of Asians. And Indians.
And many other nationalities.

Emily, who is 9, is one of my best Asian students.
I rely on her to teach the newbies.

One of the great joys of being a teacher?
Seeing your students wanting to teach others.

Last week, two Kazakh brothers came in to play.
And I had Emily look after them.

Then they started to speak either Kazakh or Russian.

Emily lamented:
“Doesn’t anyone speak Chinese around here?”

Good thing we all have a common language!
It’s called chess.

Today I will go to the North End branch of the Boston Public Library to teach my Monday senior chess seminar.
We will discuss Magnus Carlsen’s brilliant win over Arjun Erigaisi at last weekend’s Generations Cup.

The move Ng4 was pure genius!

(Image courtesy of Agadmator’s Chess Channel)

After teaching my seniors, I will start a new chess class for kids.
And introduce a fresh bunch to the joys of chess.

I don’t know how many countries they will represent.
Or how many languages they will speak.

But I will teach them algebraic notation: The language of chess.

Each square on the chessboard has a name:
It consists of a letter, which tells you what file it is on (files go up and down).
And a number, which tells you what rank it is on (ranks go from side to side).

For example, 1 d4 d5 2 c4 is the Queen’s Gambit.

1 e4 e5 2 f4 is the King’s Gambit.

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 is the French Defence.

1 e4 c5 is the Sicilian.

1 e4 d5 is the Scandinavian.

And 1 d4 f5 is the Dutch.

I also have a special dialect in mind for my chess kids.
It is called fun.

Very exciting? You bet.
I can’t imagine a better birthday present.

(Well, maybe a little of this afterwards.)