November 25th – Nervy Knights
It was a bold opening move. Bold, or stupid.
He’d never seen his opponent. They played, like this, over the course of many nights, keeping score in a leather notebook that he kept in a drawer. He was many games behind. But he kept playing.
It had started, like most games, or like most correspondence games, in a virtual world. He had played well, for the first couple of games, piquing his opponent’s interest, it would seem. A few questions, nothing too personal, where and what are you from his opponent. He asked nothing in return. It was only a game.
Two weeks later, a knock at the door, and a delivery to sign for. An ornate chess set, heavy, a thick wooden board and carved alabaster pieces. The most beautiful chess set he had ever seen.
The next time they played his opponent told him to set up the board, to track their moves as they played. He traced his fingers over the elegant pieces as he planned his moves, imagining his opponent doing the same thing, wherever they were. The packaged set had borne no return address, anonymous packing labels sent from his own country meant little: his opponent could be anywhere.
He worried, sometimes. He didn’t deserve this gift, something so beautiful. He had expressed his gratitude through the chat box, but didn’t know if he should ask anything more, and nothing more had been asked of him. Just to play. Which he had done, night after night, recording the scores in the leather-bound book.
Sometimes he felt that his opponent was letting him win, occasionally, to keep him interested. Most times, when he felt like the game was within his reach, he felt, and saw, and experienced, in the movement of the alabaster pieces, the game slip away. His opponent never seemed to mind. Just played again the next night, and he moved the pieces and recorded the scores as he had done for weeks, for months.
This time, though, he was trying something new. The knight sacrifice opening.
The alabaster horse felt cool under his nervous fingers as he made the first move.
Inspired by a prompt from here.