Games people play

Pandora Melly learns the indirect joy of chess
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Brian Sewell, art critic of the London Evening Standard

I haven't played rugby since I was 26 or 27, and I gave up tennis two years ago when I had my first heart attack. I feel unsure about returning to it, and I stopped skiing for the same reason. Those were my three physical games, and I feel that an important part of my life has come to an end.

Now, board games: chess is something I might still play if I could find a partner who was bad enough. I find that chess is very useful when travelling alone in Turkey. If you are stuck at a bus station, or in a dingy little village with no bus at all, with hours to kill before bed, take yourself to the nearest teahouse. Order a glass of tea, and another of Raki - the fearsome Turkish equivalent of Ouzo, and set up a chess problem. Within seconds, Turks will appear. They won't play chess with you, but it starts a conversation.

I did this once and someone asked: "Can I practise my English with you?" His first question was: "How many princesses have you slept with?" So now you see the point of chess. After that, of course, there follows an orgy of tea-drinking and tric-trac playing, during which one learns a little Turkish and teaches a little English, and so chess has served its purpose.

As for card games, at these I'm hopeless. And should I ever be compelled to make up a fourth at anything - and heaven forfend that it should be bridge - I have to have the rules explained at every response. I'm really such a nuisance to the other players that they soon give up and turn to drink.

Fortnum & Mason's Turkish Delight is imported directly from Turkey in a traditional wooden box containing rose, lemon, pistachio, almond, honey and apricot flavours. pounds 9.50 for 454g (orders, 0171-465-8666).

Tric-trac is a variation of backgammon using pegs as well as pieces.

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