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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Check mate, on the death of my friend

"Check mate," in this world only, 5 X 8 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches cold press paper
"Shah mat," in Persian for "The king is dead," where chess began, "Check mate," signals the end of the game, and the loser lays the king on its side.
Today my long time friend and more than 20-year chess partner, John Lawton, age 88, died after suffering strokes beginning Friday.
John Lawton, my friend
He had virtually no family, and lots of friends. A retired optometrist, he was a poet, a writer, an abstract painter, a volunteer at Edmond pet rescue, a senior citizens domino player, and a student of chess.
When we first started playing years ago at what was Borders, I couldn't stay on the board with him. Since then, we've both been through turmoil, and repeated health issues. And in recent years we'd meet at Steve's Rib for lunch and chess. We played for fun, no clock, and often explored alternative endings.
Eventually, I got to where I could occasionally beat him, but he'd astound me with his knowledge of the chess greats, often quoting them, with humor and insight. I'd never heard of most of them, but he knew them and most of the classic moves.
His bookshelves were full  of books on chess. From him I learned the intricacies of the pawn game, and got better, and could outlast him some. But in the last two games we played, he would say "Check mate" as I tipped my king on its side.
Today's watercolor is for him, as this life forces him to say "Check mate," and tip his king on its side. But the edge of the board fades into a new game.
But now he'll be able to play chess eternally with all those great masters he often quoted. I think they're in for a challenge, including the words "Check mate."

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