Jean-Pierre Lissonet, left, teaches young Daniel O'Sullivan some tricks of the trade.
Jean-Pierre Lissonet, left, teaches young Daniel O'Sullivan some tricks of the trade. Brett Wortman

The kings of the castle

THREE men sit at a table outside Mooloolaba's Hippodrome Cafe, a cappuccino in one hand and a chess piece in the other.

Most afternoons, they are a feature of The Esplanade cafe set, offering a friendly hello to passers-by, a welcome chat with the regulars and a hearty laugh now and then.

The trio comprises different ages and cultural backgrounds: retiree Brian Porritt's charming English accent originates from Leeds in the United Kingdom; Jean-Pierre Lissonet is a cheek-kissing Frenchman; and 29-year-old Coastie Dylan Stevenson.

But all share one passion: chess.

Now a Warana resident, Brian said he had made many friends through the game since moving here in 1987.

"There's no game like it in the world," he said.

"It doesn't matter what culture, what language, what faith you are.

"It helps to bond people and that's what makes it so special."

Brian and his merry band of chess lovers are a popular attraction in the beachside setting, using their witty sense of humour and cheeky grins to pull in strangers for a friendly game.

"To meet new people, you need either one or two things: you need a dog or you need a chess set," Brian said with a smile.

Hippodrome Cafe owner Joe Osbaldeston said that when he bought the café just over a month ago, he knew the group of regulars was a part of the package.

"I'd met them before I bought the cafe," he said.

"They're lovely characters and they always attract people."

Brian, Jean-Pierre and Dylan are often joined by fellow Sunshine Coast Chess Club players Alin Stanciu, Clifton Franks and Stephen Solomon for a relaxed game at the cafe.

Brian said that during summer, as the peak tourism season hit, the group met people from all over the world.

"I've got so many stories from different people I've met over the years," he said.

"It's amazing who will come up to you and play you in a game of chess."

Jean-Pierre said the best chess games were with strangers.

"It's a mind game, so if you don't know the person you have a better game because you don't know how their mind works," he said.

Chess was a simple game, he said, but it played an important role in many people's lives.

"Chess brings out the best in people," he said. "If someone is depressed or simply isn't having a good day, they can sit down for a game of chess and throw their mind into it and everything else doesn't matter."

Brian and Jean-Pierre also go to the University of the Sunshine Coast from Monday to Thursday during each semester to play chess with students.

Brian said university staff were highly appreciative of the group's presence as the games kept students' minds engaged and helped them make new friends.

While the social chess group indirectly represents the Sunshine Coast Chess Club, the men don't always play competitively.

Brian said if he was approached by younger children, he taught them the manners of the game: to shake the opponent's hand at the end, and to say thank you.

"When it comes to the end of the game and my next move is checkmate, I turn the board around so they have my side," he said.

"That way, I can teach them and they learn how to play the game."

For Brian, retirement is best lived meeting new people.

"It doesn't get much better than this," he said as he sipped his coffee at the front of the cafe.

"It's a great atmosphere.

"I mean, look at this: you've got the sea over there, you've got amazing coffee and you've got lovely people."

With such a colourful lifestyle, Brian proves retirement isn't always black and white.


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