Monday, December 14, 2009

A game of chess

In early July, while doing my normal Sunday wanderings I noticed a man sitting at a table playing a game of chess by himself. As I watched he invited me to a friendly game. I've played chess before. In fact, I was pretty good in high school, but it's been YEARS. I accepted his invitation and sat down.

While playing, we chatted, and he told me a bit about himself. Turns out that he as a chess instructor with some free time between students. Great...
He studied under a russian world master. Great...
He had recently moved up from Oregon where he had been the grandmaster. Great...
Can we just get this over with so I can go wallow in self pitty and doubt about the thrashing...

It became obvious pretty quickly that he was a much better player than me. Within a few minutes I was down a knight and a rook, and he wasn't even focusing on the game. Lots of people were wandering by, and he would introduce himself, say that he gave lessons, and hand out a card. Every once in a while he would offer some advice on my tactics, typically suggesting things to me that I hadn't considered. In some cases, I just played along, hoping that he didn't realize that I was faking.

All the time I was thinking there was no way I could get out of this, but wanted to see how things would unfold. At least I would be able to say I played chess against a grand master. A while later I was able to take his knight, leaving me still a rook behind. Then a miracle happened - He made a mistake. I was able to take his rook for free, and put him in check at the same time. Pulling something like that is basically like getting a free move because he can't develop his position when he has to worry about saving his king.

Later I noticed he had left an opening for me to push a pawn that would force him to sacrifice his last rook. I felt my heart rate go up to about 160 when I noticed this, because for the first time it meant that I had some chance of winning.

I was able to pull it off, leaving me with one rook and some pawns, and him with only pawns. Four moves later he resigned. I couldn't keep myself from smiling; amazing sensation.

Not a chance in the world I would have been able to pull this off if he would have been even slightly paying attention to the game. Never happening again.

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