So I’m at the chess club last night, delivering a proper thrashing to an older opponent I’d never faced before. He’d lost a piece early in the game but played on, forcing me to prove my worth.
Okay, I says to myself. He wants to get trounced, that’s what we’ll do.
But I didn’t rush; I took my time, tried to understand the position. After all, there’s little more embarrassing than losing a won game OTB, right?
I began to see sacrifices everywhere that netted me gain. Working through all the variations in my head took some time, but I felt I had some solid plays. Flashy, even. So flashy, in fact, that I admittedly kept looking up from the game to see if anyone was watching.
How could nobody be seeing this? How were they so wrapped up in their own games or conversations that my brilliant plays should go unnoticed? Like a child, I hesitated much longer between moves than necessary, hoping that someone would glance over at my game. I’d see their eyebrows go up, followed by the quick glance at me that would have resulted in raised eyebrows and a smile in return.
The energy (at least to me) was palpable. The endless continuations and sharp plays available to me were nothing short of fascinating. And yet, the men of the chess club continued to toil over their own positions, their own plays.
I couldn't blame them, but why does it seem that I’ve three to four players gathered round me when I’m doing the losing? Why does it seem like everyone wanders around, hands behind their backs, nodding and tilting heads only when the games are stale and boring or I’m receiving a whooping?
While my opponent thought, I began looking at their boards, at their positions, in hopes of a return glance. But it was no use: They were entranced in the happenings directly to their fronts, heads cradled in hands, the occasional sigh escaping lips as they contemplated.
I won the game with a double piece sacrifice for a forced mate —— a wonderful ending that only I enjoyed, that only I and my opponent witnessed. And he sure won't be sharing it about.
Alas, such is the torture of live chess.
P.S. Before anyone asks, I’d forgotten my chess notation books. The game is lost, although I could probably reconstruct the final position if I tried really hard.
Photo credit: Greeley Tribune