Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Not-All-Millbrook Chess Challenge

Think back to Reykjavik 1972. Think back to the heightened tension, the cold war edge to any competitive pursuit between east and west. Think Spassky. Think Fischer.

Then adjust your thoughts to Dong's front room, a warm coal fire, Andrea Bocelli on the stereo (I know, but Dong likes him) and a pair of very rusty former schoolboy chess players.

A long, long time ago I played at school; once managing to get onto board four (that's the lowest ranked) in the school team. Only once, mind you. The normal board four player was poorly and no one else was available, so I got the honour.

Even longer ago, Dong played during his break times at school; never reaching the dizzy heights of the school team, but he does talk a good game.

For the last umpteen years, we've been promising each other a game, and we finally got around to it.

The room was hushed as the first move was made (mine, I was playing white); pawn to king4. This was matched by the audacious black pawn to king4. So far, so even. Thereafter the first game fell apart before my eyes as Dong went on the offensive and outwitted me on every front. So, he doesn't just talk a good game then.

As the pieces were set up for the second game, the atmosphere was so thick with tension and excitement that you could have cut through it with a pound of butter. I thought the best thing was to build the tightest defence I could and see if Dong made a mistake; at least that way I'd have given him a better game than the first.

After much frowning, head scratching and missing a couple of potentially winning moves my black team came out on top; Dong deciding to topple his king as his situation became increasingly hopeless.

I had to stop at two games as there was tea to cook and things to do before film club started. An excellent outcome: a fine and honourable draw between fine and dishonourable (or at least disreputable) gentlemen. I'd have to admit that Dong is probably the better player, but I don't think he can relax too much when we're playing.

Great fun and I'm looking forward to the next round when , with a bit of luck, I won't be nursing the last vestiges of a hangover.

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