At most, he thought they’d chat for a moment.

Never did Richard Alexander think he’d get to play chess with His Eminence Cardinal Collins, matching pawn versus queen, rook against knight in an epic match he will remember forever.

The 17-year-old Alexander was asked to keep His Eminence entertained before a special anniversary mass at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy. That entertainment turned out to be an intense bout that lasted for well over an hour between two new friends.

It didn’t occur to Alexander that the Cardinal would be the type of person to play such games. It can be daunting dealing with such a figure for the first time, when you haven’t realized yet that that the person in an important role is always a person first and foremost.

Chess was the choice in a classroom brimming with options. Alexander asked His Eminence to play, just as he would any other schoolyard friend.

Challenge accepted. The match was on. The memory will never wear off.

“I’m in shock,” said Alexander. “I still can’t believe that really happened. When I woke up this morning, I never would have guessed that that would happen today. It wasn’t planned, it just came up.

“I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.”

The game was battled to a draw. But Alexander led the bout throughout, as teachers and school board officials gathered to watch. For Alexander, what started as just another ordinary day became an exceptional moment.

(We don’t know for sure, but we suspect it was the same for His Eminence too.)

After celebrating Mass in the school’s gym, the day wrapped with a commemorative plaque for the school presented by school trustees, the Director of Education and the Superintendent of Education.

Moments like these, when children get to bond with their elders, forge memories that last a lifetime.

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