Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Storytelling requires strategy, gambit, and a propensity to bluff.

On a scale of one to ten, you doubtless rank somewhere around a minus three or four when the matter turns to chess, a game you admire, even respect, but are not proficient in it. At least your one or two on the scale of ten, as applied to baseball, was supplemented with your greater understanding of strategies and nuances. 

Right-handed player that you were, you knew, for instance, when undertaking to catch a fly ball to your favored center field position, to make every effort to make the catch with your weight favoring your right foot. This move facilitated an extra moment of advantage when, coming forward with your weight now transferred to your left foot, you were nearly synchronized with your catch and your subsequent throw to the appropriate baseman, a strategy to prevent a base runner from advancing after the catch. Not on your watch.

You have no such strategy for chess, even though you did, as a much younger person, devour tracts and pamphlets depicting famous chess openings and gambits from championship chess matches of the iconic past. Thus your awareness of the Ruy Lopez, Giuoco Piano, and Budapest Gambits and the sense of entering a game of chess with some secret potential of a midge strategy coming to you in ways similar to the way complications or solutions to dramatic gambits come to you when you are at composition.

The last time you played chess was with the closest thing to a best friend possible, your goal being able to say something that had been said to you on numerous occasions and which you have always had a wish to be able to say as a result of one of your splendid opening gambits and inspired launch into an effective middle game.

As you visualize the scenario, you'd have to be at least ten moves into a game, perhaps even exchanged a piece or two, sacrificed a piece for position, or lost a piece because you'd been finessed. At such a point, you could add a furrow or two to your already furrowed brow, advance a knight or bishop with a flourish, plunk it into its intended place, then say, "That's mate in four moves."

In this last game with your dear friend, you were, at his insistence, initiating a chess board and  non-representational--which is to say abstract--pieces, holding your own beyond the first several moves, but having no mid-game strategy in mind, much less any hope of an end game. 

Of a sudden, you saw an opening diagonal that would allow you a dramatic sweep for a bishop and an opportunity to put forth what you quickly decided to call a gambit named after you, The Bluff Gambit.

Of a piece with a dandy, shooting his shirt cuff beyond the sleeve of his jacket, you lifted the bishop, drew it across the board, then plunked it into place. "That should be mate in five," you said, hoping you'd managed to intimate the inevitability of your statement.

"Really?" Your friend said. "I-I'm afraid I don't see it. We'll have to play it out, because I was about to warn you--unless you're sure."

There was only one way out. "Of course," you said, tipping your king over in a time-honored gesture of resignation. "It would have been five for me, but I can see now that you'd have had me in four."

That said, you were bordering on a much more meaningful personal gambit--the Bluff Gambit for leaving the dramatic scene you entered with such a cunning flair.

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