#117 – Grandmaster Flash

Despite my best intentions, I fear the mentoring gods still frown on my sessions with Ernie. I’m sincerely trying to influence the perverted cheater in a positive way, but doing so hasn’t proved easy. Today I suggested a game of chess, figuring the kid’s little grey cells would be so focused on the game’s strategy, he wouldn’t have a chance to pull his usual shenanigans.

Ernie jumped at the idea of a chess battle and assured me he knew how to play. Yet he refused to set his pieces in their assigned starting positions, instead placing his king in the front row and situating both of his bishops on white squares. And his cheating only accelerated once the game began. For instance, he insisted his pawns could slide sideways when blocked, and that both his rooks and bishops could jump over any of his men.

In response, I determined to set a proper example by following the rules myself. I thought conquering him despite his violations would teach him a valuable lesson about breaking rules. Conceptually, it seemed a solid plan. In practice, I got the pants beaten off me in twenty minutes of play. And the only lesson seemingly imparted was: Cheaters prosper!”

That’s when I devised Plan B. As I surmised, a forty-five-year old guy should be able to cheat ten times better than an eight-year-old. Consequently, I improvised a couple of game-changing maneuvers. I first moved my remaining knight from its left-side starting position on a straight line to the other end of the board, then made a right turn and slid it along the back line to the far side. In the process, I captured every enemy piece in the knight’s path.

Ernie sounded flummoxed, yelling: “Hey, that’s not fair. The knight’s s’posed to go in an ‘l!’”

I matter-of-factly replied: “He did move in an ‘l’; a capital ‘L.’ It’s allowed once every game.”

On my next turn, I pulled a coup de gras from my spontaneous playbook: my queen jumped from one end of the board to the other and knocked Ernie’s king clear off the table. “Checkmate!” I proclaimed.

Once again, the kid seemed taken aback by my ploy: “What kinda move is that?”

I asked him if he’d ever heard of “Queen Mary?” He said he had. So I continued: “Well, my queen is ‘Queen Mary,’ and once every match she can jump over as many pieces as she wants and capture someone. The move’s called a ‘Hail Mary.’”

At that moment, I heard a squeaky voice behind me exclaim: “Wow! A ‘capital L’ and a ‘Hail Mary!’ My daddy never told me about them. Wait till I play him again. Boy is he gonna be surprised!”

Naturally, I hadn’t known there was an audience for my unique stratagems. As the spectator walked off, I thought to myself: Yep, your daddy is in for a surprise, alright!

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Chess – Winning’s a snap … when you cheat!


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