Saturday, January 23, 2021

Reflections on my amazing chess coach, Alfred Carlin's passing

Originally posted as a comment on, on the article: 5-time Louisiana champ Alfred Carlin passes away

These beautiful memories and reflections are bringing tears welling. I met Alfred when I was in third grade at Metairie Park Country Day School. Alfred was our chess club teacher, and my best friend and I went onto become Alfred's students in the late 80s and early 90s at the Chess Academy of New Orleans. I spent endless Thursday nights playing in the weekly tournaments and too many weekends to recount. I got waxed across the board back and forth and slugged it out with players who I aspired to be as good as one day. 

I miss Alfred's bigger than life personality. He embodied the verve, attitude and kindness I love most about New Orleans. A hilarious man, I've adopted dozens of his idioms from those years. 

I have been waiting and waiting for my own daughter, now 7, to take up chess. She's becoming so good so fast it reminds me of my childhood, and she now has an insatiable appetite for the game. I blundered the other day, and she beat me for the first time, and she regaled in joy for a long time. My father taught me to play first, and after six months he could no longer win and sought out harder opponents to spur me on. Even more than the celebration of beating me, she could not wait to share with her grandfather her accomplishment.

Just a few days later she repeated as I had recently introduced her, "if it's free, it's for me." Alfred's legacy lives on. His passion and kindness were indelible. He taught me so many life lessons. I left New Orleans at the best my game ever was. Winning the 8th grade Louisiana scholastic championship beating out my head to head sparring partner, John Bick; another Chess Academy staple. While my play went into perma-stasis, John went on to become a National Master. 

What I wouldn't give to sit at the board again and watch Alfred pretend to roll up sleeves, twist a pinned piece permanently onto its square and watch him grin ear to ear knowing that he has right where he wanted me. I miss my coach.