Mrs Watty lived two doors away from us in 1950s Lincoln. She was pretty well off compared to the rest of the street, having a car long before anyone else and having people in to do things for her.
We had but a nodding acquaintance with Mrs Watty until I was an early teenager. She never seemed to go out of the house, other than in the car. Her age I know not; I just saw her as ‘old’.
Presumably Mrs Watty found out that I played chess at school, and she let it be known that she would like to learn to play chess. Thus it was that I embarked on a very brief career as a chess coach and went round to see her, along with my chess set.
The house was dingy and ornately cluttered inside, with lace at the windows, and smelt of the two large Persian cats that had never been seen outside, plus other strange musty aromas.
The lesson consisted of me showing Mrs Watty the moves of the various pieces and putting these together in some example games. I was particularly proud to show her the shortest possible chess game, the Fool’s Mate (1. g4 e5; 2. f3, Qh4 checkmate.) She seemed pleased to have the instruction, although not much seemed to stick. I think maybe she really enjoyed the young company.
I emerged from Mrs Watty’s house with half a crown for my trouble, which was a fair amount in those days. I think the exercise was repeated once, but Mrs Watty never really became a chess player, nor did I become a chess coach.
Featured image shows the Fool’s Mate.