Chess Fantasies I: The Stranger

| 63 | Fun & Trivia


Theme music begins. Fade in on The Stranger, who is walking along a city street at night. He stops at a window and peers inside, where many chess games are going on. He watches as the theme music continues. When the music ends, The Stranger opens the door, enters the club, and walks toward Kelly and Jason, who are in conversation.

JASON: So Michael Jackson's new album is called "Thriller"? It'll never sell. He's never going to make it as a solo artist. Tito's always been the star in that group anyway.

KELLY: Donny Osmond has a lot more talent. Have you seen him on...

THE STRANGER: (interrupting:) Hi! You guys play chest here?

KELLY: (looks over The Stranger) Um, yes, this is a chess club. Do you know how to play?

THE STRANGER: Yeah. I used to play my brother a lot. Always beat him.

KELLY: (with mock sincerity:) That's very impressive!

THE STRANGER: Hey, let's play!

KELLY: (trying to be discouraging:) Well... I happen to be the strongest player in this club. If you like, I can get you a game with a weaker player...

THE STRANGER: Nah, I wanna play you. Then I can see how good I am!

KELLY: (exchanges an amused look with Jason) All right, let's play! (The Stranger and Kelly sit down to play.)

JASON: Try not to break his ego, Kelly!

KELLY: I'll be gentle. (To The Stranger:) You have the White pieces. Make the first move.

THE STRANGER: I get to move first?! Good! I move first! Let's see.... (Plays 1. e4) How's that?!

KELLY: Excellent! (Plays 1...c5)

THE STRANGER: (eyes the move suspiciously) What's that? (Jason laughs.)

KELLY: It's my opening move. The Sicilian Defense.

THE STRANGER: (Points to the Black e-pawn.) I thought most guys move this one first.

JASON: (Laughing loudly) Oh, man!

KELLY: (chuckling a bit) No, you will find many players open with moves other than ...e5. In tournament play, in fact, you'll find my move is played more often than ...e5.

THE STRANGER: Yeah, really? And the move even has a name, the Sicilian Defense? So some Italian guy invented it?

KELLY: Hmm, maybe, not sure. It's an old opening. Maybe Sicily is where the opening originated. Or, maybe the Mafia invented it, ha ha.

THE STRANGER: Wow, the Mafia has guys that play chess? (Jason laughs.)

KELLY: Oh, I'm sure they have a few. Chess is played everywhere. (Looks at The Stranger for a few seconds, then turns serious:) Look, I'm afraid this really isn't going to be a competitive game. I have won over 20 chess tournaments, and you are obviously still a beginner. Let me find someone closer to your level....

JASON: (sarcastically) There’s nobody here at this guy’s level, Kelly!

THE STRANGER: (To Kelly, annoyed) What? You afraid to play me?!

KELLY: (Laughing) Certainly not!

THE STRANGER: Then play! (He moves 2. Bc4. Jason laughs loudly when he sees the move.)

JASON: Wow, your opponent must know some new theory in the Sicilian! You're in big trouble, Kelly!

KELLY: Heh heh, perhaps... (Plays 2...e6.)

JASON: (Covering his eyes.) Tell me what he plays. I'm afraid to look! (The Stranger plays 3. Nc3.)

KELLY: You can open your eyes. His move seems OK.

JASON: Amazing! Must be beginner's luck! (Kelly plays 3...Nc6. The Stranger plays 4. Nf3. Kelly studies the board for several seconds.)

THE STRANGER: It's your move.

KELLY: (somewhat irritated) I am well aware of that!

THE STRANGER: Well, you were taking so long, I thought maybe you didn't see me move.

KELLY: Look, in the first place, one or two minutes is not a long time to spend on a chess move when serious players are playing. And, in the second place, even if I didn't see you move, I can tell you moved by simply checking the board.

JASON: (sarcastically) Hey, you can't expect him to know that!

KELLY: (Plays 4...d6) Here. Think that one out. (The Stranger plays 5. Bb3.)

JASON: Oh, man! Why are you moving your bishop again?!

THE STRANGER: I want my bishop to be safe.

JASON: Safe!? How was he under attack!? You just wasted a move! A basic principle of chess is never move the same piece twice in the opening!

KELLY: Jason, be nice... (Plays 5...Nf6.)

THE STRANGER: (Plays 6. d4. Irritated:) What's wrong with the way I'm playing?

KELLY: Nothing. You're doing fine.

JASON: Yeah, except good players play d4 on move 3, har har! (Kelly plays 6...cxd4. The Stranger replies 7. Nxd4.)

At another table, a game ends with a handshake. Grant gets up and strolls over to Jason.

JASON: (To Grant:) You won, of course?

GRANT: Yes. Who's Kelly playing?

JASON: Huh, some patzer. (Moves closer to Grant, speaking quietly) You should see this guy! An obvious beginner, but he still insists on playing Kelly, even after Kelly tells him he's our strongest player! (Kelly plays 7...a6. The Stranger replies 8. f4.)

GRANT: (Studying the game.) Are you sure he's a beginner? His position looks fine to me.

JASON: Oh, he's a patzer all right. After 1. e4 c5, he played - get this - 2. Bc4, har har!

GRANT: Well, his first few moves may have been unorthodox, but it appears he has managed to steer the game into a Sozin Sicilian. That’s some clever transposing, if you think about it. Besides, (studying The Stranger) something about him looks familiar. (Kelly plays 8...Qa5.)

THE STRANGER: (To Kelly:) When you castle, does the castle jump over the king, or is it the other way 'round?

KELLY: The king moves two squares laterally, and the castle, er, rook, jumps over him.

THE STRANGER: Thought so. (Plays 9. O-O.)

JASON: (To Grant:) There, you heard him. Any doubts left about this guy?

GRANT: Eh, I think the jury is still out. (Kelly plays 9...Nxd4. The Stranger replies 10. Qxd4. Kelly plays 10...d5.)

JASON: (To Grant:) Ah, nice trap by Kelly. This guy is sure to fall into it. (Imitating the "Lost In Space" robot:) Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!

THE STRANGER: Huh? How am I in danger?

JASON: Oh, you're right! There's no danger! In fact, Kelly just gave you a free pawn to take!

THE STRANGER: (Pointing to the d-pawn) Take that pawn? But he'll just jump back with his pawn!

JASON: But then you'll jump back with your knight!

THE STRANGER: But then he'll jump back with his knight!

JASON: But then you'll jump back with your queen, and then you're a pawn up!

THE STRANGER: A pawn up?! Huh, what good is a lousy pawn. I'm doing this. (Plays 11. Be3.)

JASON: Wow, stops the real threat! Luc-kee!! (Kelly plays 11...Nxe4. The Stranger replies 12. Nxe4.)

GRANT: Yeh, lucky. I wonder... (Kelly plays 12...dxe4. The Stranger replies 13. f5) f5! Would a beginner even consider this move? (Sotto voce:) Who is this man? What is it about him that seems so familiar? He comes into this club and plays the fool, and yet, underneath it all, there is a subtle confidence in the way he commands his men. I have seen this man somewhere! If I could only remember where! (Kelly plays 13…Qb4)

THE STRANGER: (Plays 14. fxe6) Bam!

Grant suddenly realizes who The Stranger is. He is jolted by the realization.

GRANT: (Still sotto voce:) I know! But this is impossible! What is he doing here?! It can’t be him! (Kelly plays 14…Bxe6.)

THE STRANGER: (Plays 15. Bxe6) Chop!

GRANT: But it’s true! It’s him! It’s really him! I don’t believe it! (Aloud, to Jason, intensely) Do you know who Kelly is playing?

JASON: (Sounding bored) No. Who. (Grant whispers in his ear.) What!! No way!! No frickin’ way!! (Kelly plays 15…fxe6)

THE STRANGER: (Plays 16. Rxf8+) Crunch!

JASON: Oh God!! Oh my God!! It’s him, it’s him, it’s him!!

Jason runs very excitedly to another table, knocking the board over and sending the pieces flying. He whispers the news to the players, who appear very interested. The news is soon passed around the room, and gradually all the other players get up and make their way to the game between Kelly and The Stranger. There is whispering ("Do you think it’s him?", etc.) as they crowd around the game.

GRANT: (To Kelly, with great intensity:) Do you know who you’re playing?

KELLY: He’s no patzer.

GRANT: I know, but have you taken a good look at him…

Kelly looks at The Stranger, who smiles back faintly. Slowly Kelly’s expression freezes.

THE STRANGER: It’s your move.

KELLY: (Very nervously) Y-yes sir, I know.

THE STRANGER: Well, make your move then. Queen takes rook is forced, isn’t it?

KELLY: Yes, sir, I know. (He plays 16…Qxf8, his hand trembling.)

THE STRANGER: (Plays 17. Qa4+) Check.

KELLY: (Stares at the board for several seconds, not moving, nervously talking to himself:) Now what? Now what? Think!

THE STRANGER: No need to think. Your position is lost. (Kelly still does not move. Impatiently:) Uh, can we wind this up? (After a few more seconds, as Kelly continues to stare at the board.) Here, let me help you out. (Begins moving the pieces rapidly as he speaks.) King d8 loses quickly to the rook check, so your only move is b5, but then queen takes e4, rook d8, queen c6 check, rook d7, rook d1, queen e7, and now just about anything wins, although I think I like bishop b6 best, when queen c8 check next move is crushing. Now you have only one option, and that’s saying….

KELLY: I r-resign.

THE STRANGER: (smiling) Right! Thanks for the game. (He shakes hands with Kelly, smiling amiably.)

The Stranger gets up, the crowd instantly parting to give him room, and makes his way to the door. Theme music plays. Fade out.

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