Mind Game This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I knew him. It only took a few short, tense hours to become accustomed to his mannerisms. I knew his look of concentration and his unsettling smile. I noticed how clumsy his motions were, as if he were uncomfortable in the midst of all these people. When he complimented my math shirt, I learned he taught math.

“Nerds,” coughed a player sitting next to us wearing orange-tinted sunglasses. I knew him because he was the one I had to beat.

My opponent slid his piece across the board and struck the clock, starting my time. It always amuses me how “Searching for Bobby Fisher” glamorizes chess, with the flurry of action and slamming of clocks. In reality, nobody would dream of slamming anything in the quiet tension of the tournament room. Since every move is played only after deliberate thought, there is almost no motion. I had not anticipated this when I began competing, but now chess is a childhood passion I am unwilling to let go of.

I scanned the board with a face that I am told is expressionless, but inside my stomach sank. The complications were gone and there were few pieces on the board, but the odds were against me. My chess tutor always said that Americans were bad at end­games and Russian players were much better in that regard. I hoped for a mistake by my opponent due to a lack of understanding.

But it seemed that mistake would never come, as his pieces slowly squeezed the life out of mine. He understood. He knew there was no need to rush. I cast my eyes around for some avenue of escape. My opponent knew my end was near and, with a self-satisfied expression, asked his friends, who were concentrating on their own games, if they would like to get dinner that night. Sensing this was the wrong time, the player with the orange-tinted glasses patted my opponent on the shoulder, saying, “Later, man, okay? We’ll talk it about it later.”

Stubbornly, I refused to concede defeat. I would not lose to this awkward man with his unsettling smile, who taught his beloved craft to uncaring ears. I would not give him the satisfaction of beating me. Another player who had finished pulled his chair up to watch. I could not help but feel the motion of his eyes as they traveled over the board and then to the math problem on the front of my shirt.

Trying to ignore the feeling of being X-rayed, I struggled to stop my opponent’s pieces in their march across the board. I saw my position slowly give way as I tried to defend everything at once. Suddenly, I knew the outcome. Seeing the fight was over, I turned down my king and shook my opponent’s hand.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

inspiredpoet said...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm
As a chess fan myself, great job!
 
bassman116 said...
Aug. 17, 2009 at 5:56 pm
i realy like it , it gave a certaint edge, a fire to speed chess that i lck when i play. WELL DONE
 
Katee W. said...
Jul. 21, 2009 at 12:06 am
THAT WAS GOOD
 
sallyloco said...
Jun. 22, 2009 at 2:15 am
nice.
 
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