Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Remembering Greg Hager

I didn't have a chance to meet Greg prior to his illness, but I did get to know him relatively well through over a decade of interactions at the Boylston Chess Club. What amazed me was how positive he always remained about life despite the serious medical challenges he faced. Every time I asked him how he was doing, I usually got the same answer, "I'm doing pretty well, thanks." Sometimes he would be away from the club for several weeks or months for a surgery, treatment or other hospitalization, but he never expressed any anger or resentment about his predicament. Instead, he'd show up one day and say "I was gone for awhile, but now I'm happy to be back playing chess with you guys again." Greg had plenty of reason to say NO to life, but he always said YES instead.

Over the years, as his playing ability deteriorated he inevitably lost many more games than he won. Yet, he never complained about his results. Instead, he set up the pieces for the next game and let loose with his swashbuckling, romantic style. Greg never saw a pawn that he didn't think was worth sacrificing. His "initiative at all costs" approach often threw a scare into higher rated opponents and sometimes netted him an upset win.

The last time I played Greg was during the 2006 Hauptturnier. This was the period of time when players would take the short ride over to his house in Somerville every week for their games. He sat up in bed and we played on a demonstration board hung on the wall. When the game was finished and I was heading out, his mother stopped me to offer her thanks to all the players who came by each week to play Greg. "You know" she said, "Greg really looks forward to his chess games each week. In fact, he just seems better on the days he knows he's going get to play." Greg loved chess and Caissa loved him in return.

God rest your soul, chess friend.

No comments: