Chess in a Canoe
We'd prepared my boat over the weekend and loaded it and Fred's old Tresca (40 lbs new out of the mold .... now 75 lbs with its 8 years of mostly sloppy patches) onto my '76 Gremlin .... paddles and gear in the back.
Monday after work was always just the first rapid , playing around, nothing serious, no marathon river trip, no shuttling cars, no hassles .... typically 10 to 20 paddlers including the group from the plant, friends, family, and members of local clubs.
Fred and I were about to bring our version of Extreme Chess to Beachburg! Our board was complete with 64 steel inserts designed to hold our 32 magnetically modified pieces..... a variety of clamps had been discarded in favour of simple cable ties to secure the board to the rear thwart of the canoe. The rear flotation bag, fully inflated, and secured by bungees would further stabilize the board from below the thwart. This open canoe, modified for whitewater, has only the one seat amidships ..... the only practical place for the board was behind the paddler.
Wearing our river clothes, old sneakers, helmets, and lifejackets, Fred and I set up the pieces .....we had agreed that I would play white and make the first move before hitting the water ......Pawn to King Four.
Fred in his kayak would make his move as we worked our way through the waiting rapid. Boats now in the water ...we raced across the small bay between the put in point and the rapid.
Rather than get out and scout the rapid, I approched it slowly ....eased down the central tongue and broke fast to the port side eddy ....Fred wasted no time in dropping sideways into the mamoth roller preceding the eddy, popping out and using a low brace to prevent a quick capsize ....beside me know he grabbed a gunwale and reached across .....Pawn to King four.
Paddling on my left I was now re-entering the fast current, paddling upstream ...quick switch (across the bow .....good thing the board is behind me) I was now paddling "righty", ferrying across the current and slid into the next eddy. Reaching around behind ... Bishop to Queen Bishop Four. Then "Wham" Fred and his boat had slammed uncerimoniously into the side of my boat as he had shot across right behind me ....short pause ....also Bishop to Queen Bishop Four.
Leaning back and to my right I swept the rear of the old canoe back out into the flow, back paddling lazily and then turning her around I found the smallish eddy just downstream of a central boulder .... now bouncing around in the unstable water .... I risked .... Queen to King Rook Five ...... Fred, screaming like a banshee, and almost taking my head off with his twin bladed paddle grabbed his King Knight ..... and ..... just kept going .....he was now doing an ender in the "washing machine" in front of a crowd of our friends all parked in the lower eddy ... waiting their turn to showboat..... not finished yet, Fred eased down from his perch and eased back into the massive roller, sculling with his free right hand, the knight in his teeth, and his paddle spinning like a baton in his upraised left hand. Tired and beside me again he placed it down on King Bishop Three.
My turn now .....sitting high in the C1 surrounded by 10 bobbing kayaks ..... Queen takes pawn @ KB2 Checkmate!!
"WHAM" ..... I'm sideways in the roller, down is up, up is ... not sure, bouncing around, paddle is.. wrong side ..... bring it to downstream side .....reaching for the surface (should we have invested in 32 mini PFD's?) ....Slap, sweep, wrists, hips, I'm up .......flushed 100 feet downstream ......looking behind me ..... YES
32 wet chess pieces holding on for their lives (thinking "again! again!).