The #9 article in Best of US Chess 2017 is In Memory of Dad: Chess, Parenting & Crossing Borders by WIM Dr. Alexey Root.
Alexey’s moving essay preceded this year’s viral #MeToo movement, recognized on Time in the magazine’s “Person of the Year” coverage. Root recalled positive memories of her dad’s early chess lessons. Then she revealed abusive treatment from a Canadian chess coach on her first trip abroad.
When I first took a Greyhound to Vancouver, BC, at age 13, my dad forgot about the border that I would have to cross. I had no ID, no permission letter from my parents, and less than $50 on me. The Canadian officials told me that I was likely travelling to be a child prostitute on Granville Street. I cried, showed them my chess clock, and they let me continue on to Vancouver. I stayed with a Canadian who had volunteered to be my chess coach (for free) after my match with Bob Ferguson. Although my first few trips to the Canadian’s apartment were okay (after that first traumatic border crossing, I traveled with a permission letter from my dad), in retrospect “grooming” occurred. The outcome is familiar to anyone who reads salacious newspaper accounts of one-on-one teacher-student or coach-athlete encounters. There were several instances of abuse when I was 14 and 15 years old. I did not tell my mom until months after the last incident.
Root also discussed the way her childhood in chess affected her own parenting philosophy.
I followed a protective-helicopter model compared to my dad’s free-range parenting model. (I) remind other parents to never leave their child one-on-one with a coach or teacher. Know the signs of abuse. And pay attention to where national borders are! On the other hand, I respect my dad for believing me about the abuse and for helping me follow through with bringing that Canadian to justice. It is important to support victims of abuse and my dad supported me. He loved me and I love him.
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