11 March 2012

English Dames

My little step-grandson, is also my godson and we usually call by his nickname, "Chiqui" (CHEE-key), which is short for "chiquito" meaning "little one". He is six years old and like most six year olds he is an inexhaustible bundle of energy except when he is sleeping. He is always looking for something to do so I decided to teach him to play checkers. The regular game of checkers in Mexico is almost the same as it is in the U.S. and Canada except for the nomenclature. Instead of "Checkers" the game is called "Damas Inglesas" (DAH-mahs een-GLEH-sahs) which means "English Dames" or "English Ladies". In English we "capture" an opponent's piece and in Spanish we "comer" an opponent's piece meaning that we "eat" it. In English, when our piece safely reaches our opponent's side of the board it receives the crown of a "king" but in Spanish it receives the crown or "corona" (kor-OHN-ah) of a "reina" (REY-nah) or "queen".

I was going to buy a set of checkers but then I thought, "Nahhh...what fun is that?" so I decided to make a set. I came across a man who was selling large tiles made of "barro", a type of kiln fired clay used for things like flowerpots. I guess we would call the material "terracotta" in English. I bought a tile for fifteen pesos and it was sixteen inches square which was exactly what I wanted. Then I sealed the tile with paint sealer and divided it into sixty-four  two inch sqares with a large ruler. Then I painter each individual square with red or black enamel to make the checkerboard pattern. I used a small brush and a lot of patience. It took several sessions but the results turned out pretty good as you can see in the photo below. When I was done I glued a very thin piece of plywood to the back of the tile to reinforce the terracotta and also to keep the terracotta from damaging any wooden surface that I placed it on.

After I finished the checkerboard I still needed the checker pieces. I had decided to try plastic milk bottle caps when I started the project and I asked my wife Gina to tell all of her family and friends to save their milk bottle caps because I would need a lot of them. I had to make sure that I twelve each of two different colors. She didn't want to do it at first because she was afraid that they would think she is weird. I told her to tell them that she is doing it for her husband and that if she tells them that I am crazy they will surely understand. She did just that...tell them that I am crazy, and one of her friends said to her, "Poor Gina, I think you are understating the obvious". However, the plan did work and I got a big bunch of milk bottle caps after about a week or so, just in time to match them up with the checkerboard. There were two colors that had at least twelve caps of each color and they were light blue and yellow.

To make a long story short every thing came together just fine and we have been enjoying the heck out of this checkerboard. After Chiqui got the hang of it he started learning strategy very quickly and it wasn't long before he was beating his mother and his grandmothers and all of his cousins and to date I am the only one he hasn't beat. It is getting too close for comfort. In fact, the games get so tense that when we have to go to the bathroom we have to have another party guard the board to prevent.... ahem...someone from "accidentally" moving a piece in their favor. If it wasn't for this we would probably both rather pee in our pants than leave the board unguarded.

Chiqui wants to know wnen we are going to start playing chess. I don't think I am quite ready for that. I told him that we won't play chess until he bearts me at checkers. Looks like I better start figuring out how I am going to make the chess pieces.



norm said...

My son was the best checker player when he was little. He was one of those kids who could beat all of the adults. His Great Grandma taught him her tricks, I could never beat her ether...

Bob Mrotek said...

Bring him down, Norm. We'll set up a tournament :)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.