Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Boris and Natalie at the Shire Chess Competition

Boris Strelsky

Boris Strelsky is Cloverdale’s Chess Grand Master and has been for the past ten years. Finding suitable competition for Boris has become the greatest challenge the Community Chess Council has faced in all its many years of sponsoring the semiannual competitions held at the Comprehensive School.

Last year sixteen year old Natalie Pillerly Strep stepped forward and answered the Council’s call to challenge Boris’s decade long reign. Her credentials were impressive. She was the holder of Dibley in the Down’s Grand Master title since she was thirteen. Her style was to viciously slaughtered all opponents both in chess and verbally at every village school monthly competition. It seemed fitting then that she would be the one to challenge Boris. His defeat would propel her to national fame and possible fortune with lucrative sponsorships coming from chess board makers and the makers of the game timing devices.

Boris was delighted to learn of Natalie’s challenge. Her reputation for playing barbaric chess matches intrigued him, being of a gentle nature himself and never one to belittle an opponent during a match. Posters of the match were distributed throughout the Shire and tickets to he event sold out quickly in door to door sales.

Boris spent much of the three weeks leading up to the event playing himself in the Great Hall of St. Bartholomew’s Parish Church. He won nearly every match; I say nearly because of a near draw on a game held after Mass a fortnight ago. The spectators, freshly released from worship, gathered around his table, chair and mirror to watch. Their hovering created a distraction which caused him to lose focus while playing white. That momentary glitch in his mental operations gave black the advantage. Luckily he caught himself, asked the priest to invite the parishioners into the adjoining room for coffee and biscuits, and finished his game with a win.

Both Boris and Natalie quickly sent all their opponents packing on the day of the competition. They were like two freight trains coming at each other at breakneck speed along a single ribbon of track. Finally, at 6:00 P.M. they sat facing each other.
“So, we meet at least,” Natalie spoke first, thus breaking the silence.
“It is my pleasure,” Boris spoke second, hoping to disarm his young challenger with kindness.
“You’re a has been Boris. You’ve had the Shire Championship for ten years. It’s time to surrender and give it to someone younger with new ideas and fresh perspectives on the game,” Natalie said while unwrapping a fresh piece of bubble gum. She found the popping of bubbles was a factor in throwing her opponents off their game.
“Chewing gum?” Boris questioned.
“Got a problem with that do ya?” Natalie shot back before his voice inflected the question.
“Not if you’re OK with my pipe,” Boris responded. He produced a pipe and a tobacco pouch from his satchel, filled the pipe and lit it - all to Natalie’s horror. She objected to tobacco and immediately jumped to her feet and cried foul to the judges. The judges conferred and politely asked them both to conceded to the other. Natalie would removed her gum and Boris would extinguish his pipe. Natalie popped one last bubble and Boris blew a lung full of smoke into Natalie’s face causing her to choke several times and nearly inhale her gum.

The challenge was joined and the pieces advanced forward into battle. Both were regular in their taking of pieces. Natalie felt pressure, her Queen was in danger on several occasions. She had to go on the offensive but found it difficult to penetrate Boris’s flawless defenses.
“Don’t think you’ve got me Boris,” Natalie whispered just loud enough to be heard by her opponent only. “I’m on to your game. I’ve got you in twelve moves.”
Boris looked into the face of this precocious sixteen year old and considered his position as a gentleman. Her look of disdain convinced him that the best course of action was to fight a two front war, one on the board and the other with words.

“Natalie, I know how difficult it is having chess as your only companion through high school. I can’t imagine the loneliness. Additionally, you must feel so self conscious about your obvious problem with acne. How sad, one so bitter and bad tempered as you who must also deal with a face that looks like someone it was washed with a cheese grater.” At the end of the last syllable Boris made a move that he soon regretted. He’d opened the way for his own Queen downfall, that is IF Natalie was coherent.

She Wasn’t.

Natalie exploded in anger, spewing a string of adjectives describing Boris and his method of play in words usually reserved for those working the docks at Tamworth on Tide. The audience gasped. Children were rushed from the room and the cameras of Cloverdale Weekend Television darkened as the network went straight to commercial without comment.

It was more than the judges could bare. Natalie was disqualified for poor sportsmanship. She protested but because it was her word against his, Boris’s words couldn’t come back and stick to him. Boris was crowned and given his eleventh title.

Natalie is preparing for next year’s challenge. She plays herself at least daily and attends anger management classes. Boris continues his daily routine. He’s up at 6:00 A.M. eats breakfast, walks to his accounting practice, works until 5:00 P.M. walks to St. Bartholomew’s, plays a game of chess with himself in the mirror, then walks home to spend the rest of the evening with his wife, cat and dog.

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