Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Plays, checks, and mates

My friend S. has been on a chess-playing rampage. We've played five games in the past week, three of them in a pub by a fire, like we do that all the time. Thus far I've won 2, she 3-- though one of hers was technically discounted, because I let her take back a move, early on. It's a peculiar experience, playing such a game with a close friend. When it's my turn to move, I'm focused on nothing but the little pieces and their strengths and vulnerabilities. I might not even notice my pants being on fire, or one of my exes walking into the bar. The neurons flash and fire, possibilities zing and richocet. Finally, a decision, then the move, and suddenly it's S's turn. All purposeful thinking ceases. A zen state descends. I sip the Guiness I'd forgotten about. I stare into the fire, or at others in the bar where we sit, or make up mental stories about the bartendress being an agent sent by my exes to spy on me. I notice the table is wobbly. No chit-chat with S, though-- she's leaned over the board, scowling slightly, mentally computing moves while her mouth says "Bompf, bompf, bompf..." (reportedly a phrase used by a chess partner of her dad.) Then her move, the mental recess ends and it's focus time again. Who knows what she does during my turn? I have no idea. Not until the game ends do we start talking to each other; like coming up to the surface after an hour SCUBA diving with a pal.

"Chess", we kept saying in a bogus French accent, "ees lik leuve..." Followed by a metaphor which was supposed to be silly, but usually cornered some bit of truth. In chess, as in love, you play, check, and mate... whether that is the start of the game, or the end, this writer cannot yet say.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fierce focus and then zen state: this must be why people are addicted to games (we've got two in this house: crossword puzzles and scrabble). You've clarified why my husband drives miles through snowstorms on sunday morning to buy an effing New York Times that we don't even read - just to get the crossword.

1/12/05, 9:15 AM  

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