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The two players sat at the chess board, engrossed in thought. Each sat poised at their end of the table, not daring to move except to monitor their shallow breathing. The atmosphere around them stormed with mental stress, making the air insufferable. Silence dominated the room as the player minds whirled furiously. Not a word was spoken. The opponents laced their hands atop the table. The pieces lay in their respective squares waiting to be moved.
I straightened my back and reached out to grab a pawn. I slid the piece up two spaces with confident, stable, fingers. Game after game I would make a similar move, until it become subconscious. The tournament hadn’t provided the challenge I thought it would. No doubt I would wrap this game and receive first place. With my experience, it was inevitable.
I watched my opponent move with silent assurance. A knot of tension twisted in my stomach. Years of work led to this moment, a shot to prove myself among the professionals. The man across the table sat buoyant with gray streaking in his hair. His experience gave him the advantage. I responded in kind, mirroring his move. My hand placed a black pawn two squares ahead of its starting position. I let out a small sigh, unsure about my decision despite my knowledge telling me it was the right one.
Staring at the chessboard, I realized the flaw in my opponent’s plan to copy my moves, a flaw that had been committed by a majority of young chess players. As the opening game was ending, the board was symmetrical. I made the decisive first move in the middle game, one that could not be mirrored.
During the middle game, I realized that my opponent was poised to strike. With sweat beading from my forehead, I fortified my defenses and hoped it would be enough.
My pieces were in the perfect position. My protected queen sat in the middle of the board, threating the enemy. I watched as my opponent moved his pawns to secure his important pieces. It was a decent attempt to foil my plan but in the long run, it will prove futile. I glanced up at my opponent. His brow was fused in concentration as he desperately tried to figure out how to win.
Hope drained from my body as I witnessed my opponent’s attack draw nearer to my pieces. If he won the game he would gain one more success to add to his reputation. If I win, I earn the rank of chess master which would kick start my career. Countless sacrifices were made to give me this opportunity. Losing was not an option.
My moves were carried out swiftly, one after another. I had one less piece then my opponent but it had ultimately cost him more than it had me. By capturing my piece he sacrificed a vital square. My body relaxed completely. In my mind I had already won.
I narrowed my eyes at the board. All my plans to capture his pieces had been thwarted. My eyes dart around at the white formation. Only then did I see the true genius of my opponents plan. His pieces blocked my every escape as he closed in on my king. Nervousness spiked in my veins. I visualized each possible move but every outcome looked grim.
My opponent turned to drastic measures, sacrificing pieces to keep himself in the game. My hand reached out to make a move that would officially seal his fate but I found himself glancing up at my opponent. His shoulders were hunched over and his eyes glazed with defeat. His face was young and full of promise that now ceased to exist. I realized that I had been in that same position decades ago when I won my first professional tournament. If he were to win it would open him up to limitless opportunities like it had me. I refrained from commencing my move and considered the alternative. My stellar reputation would cushion my loss if he won, but he would have to earn it. I would give him one chance to checkmate me, a chance only a true professional could take advantage of. To succeed would mark him as a true master.
I watched my opponent reach out to make the decisive move and my heart sank. Just as he was about to touch a piece, he stopped himself. He paused and moved another. Puzzlement flooded my mind. It was clear to me that this wasn’t the best move available to him. I studied the situation again and discovered the fatal flaw in his position. Overcome with anxiety, I moved my piece and hoped my opponent would remain completely unaware.
My opponent reached out to make his move. It would lead to my defeat, I knew, but it filled my heart with relief. This young man has true talent. Not only did he remain attentive enough to find my flaw but he didn’t surrender despite sure defeat. Such a man deserves every praise he will be given.
My heart raced. I couldn’t believe it. Moves flew by and soon I achieved the advantage. After knocking out his pieces, it was only a matter of time before I would win. My opponent’s expression remained blank, seemingly oblivious to the fact his side was doomed. I pushed further until the opposing king was cornered and then… “Checkmate!” The word carried a sense of satisfaction and solace.
I stood up and shook my opponents hand as a modest grin broke out on his face as he bathed himself in his accomplishment. I felt a wave of contentment. I might have surrendered my advantage and therefore the game but the nation gained a new player in the world of chess. That moment wrought more joy than I’ve experienced before or since. Even today I smile at the memory.