Earlier this week Steve Ferrero, Atlantic Chess News editor, a Chess Expert and a friend, passed away. We got acquainted in 2009 when my twin boys, Taran and Roshan, started playing at the Dean of Chess Academy. Steve was a permanent fixture at DOCA and even more permanent was the smile on his face. His exuberance and love for the game made us gravitate towards him. He was always showing chess positions to T&R challenging them to figure out the best move or showing them an opening or two, 1. b3 being his favorite. He was happy to analyze games that the boys played and was complimentary to them even when they lost their games. Needless to say, Steve had a fan following in us (and the larger DOCA community) to the extent that Taran and Roshan considered him to be a mentor and a friend (chess is a great equalizer – age no bar). A week ago Taran played against Steve (his second last rated game) and lost. Steve, being the quintessential one, heaped compliments on the way Taran played and analyzed the game to the minutest detail possible at the late hour. He left DOCA telling me T & R have a great chess future and that he will proudly watch their progress. Little did we know that this would be our last interaction.

Early Wednesday we found out about Steve’s sudden death. Mere words can’t describe our emotions at that moment. For an instant I felt as if someone had punched me hard in my stomach and pulled my organs out. For an instant I felt breathless as if the air is devoid of oxygen. For an instant I felt as if a part of our life (chess has been a huge part of our lives) has been erased. And then, together, these “instants” just stayed with me even till today, 5 days after the world lost a spark. It’s never easy to hear about someone’s death. The suddenness of it makes it even more unbelievable. It was even more in this case as Steve, with his immense energy, boyish looks and a charming face looked almost a decade younger than his actual age of 51. If my family, merely chess friends, who did not know him out of the chess world, felt such an acute loss, how would his family and close friends feel?! And then there was the sensitive and difficult part of explaining this to my children. 9 year old brains cannot really process this unfortunate news and yet, it was from these little brains that I derived my strength. After numerous questions, Taran commented, “Well, I am glad I lost to him last week.” Roshan remarked, “For somebody who loves chess so much, I am sure he would be happy to go to heaven with wins.” By struggling to overcome the pain and sadness of losing Steve, we became aware of the dignity and preciousness of life (rendered last Wednesday by having the privilege to play chess against Steve and on a bigger scale, for having him in our lives).

And just like that the thought occurred to me, that as much as we grieve the impermanence of Steve’s life, at the end how he lived is what counts. And there is no doubt in my mind that Steve lived his life with a zest that is admired by many but implemented by few. He accomplished much, developed his state of life and on the way made many people happy. The hollowness that the chess community feels is a testament to that little part of Steve’s life that we were privy to. Steve Ferrero, a chess mentor and friend, may you rest in peace.

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