NEW YORK — What happened to Che Vora's father when Che was a young boy and he and his father were playing chess one holiday afternoon may sound heartbreaking and tragic, but Che doesn't want you to see it that way.
In fact, it was the treasured memory of their times playing chess together, and a remembrance of how his father died on that day in October 1979, that brought Vora to the World Chess Championship match in New York City.
Like so many chess stories, Vora's begins with his father teaching him how the pieces move.
"I learned the game from my best friend," is the way Vora puts it.
As a pre-kindergartener, Vora watched as his dad Andy Vora played his buddies in their Bronx apartment on a distinctive chess board with black and red squares. By age 5, Vora was playing against his dad, a mechanical engineer for the city of New York.
At age 7, Che beat Andy for the first time, though Che says he's unsure whether his dad let him win or it was a legitimate victory. In either case, the father-son rivalry continued.
When Che was 10, there was a family gathering to celebrate New Year's Day under his father's Jain religion, which was in October. Che and his dad retreated to the quiet of a bedroom to play some chess — a best-of-seven contest.
Around the fifth game, Andy said he wasn't feeling well and needed to lie down on the bed — where the board was set up — for a few minutes. A few minutes turned into 10, then 20, and Che's attempts to rouse his father were unsuccessful.
He summoned help from his mother, and that's when Che learned that his father had suffered a heart attack — a fatal one.
His father was 36 years old.
When Che shares this story with people attending the chess title match in Manhattan, they instinctively reply with sympathy. But Che steers them in a different direction.
"There's nothing to be sorry about," he says. "We all have to die someday, and he died playing a game he loved."
Che continued with chess, even taking lessons, but decided that studying voluminous books of chess theory wasn't for him and he gave up any thought of making chess his profession.
Instead, he took his analytical skills to Wall Street, where he worked for J.P. Morgan and Société Générale. Now, he's working to launch an entrepreneurial project, and when he heard that the chess world championship would be held in New York between Norwegian Magnus Carlsen and Russian Sergey Karjakin, he decided to attend, spending hundreds of dollars for tickets.
He has attended all four games that have been held so far, including Tuesday's game, and has tickets for all remaining rounds if the best-of-12 game match goes the full distance. With each game taking hours to complete, it's giving him plenty of time to remember and honor his father.
"It makes this game so much more special," he says.