Today I woke up in the form of a Ukranian Chess Grandmaster. I emerged from bed groggy, hungover and unable to locate the alarm clock that had been ringing an eerie electronic version of "eye of the tiger" for the last ten minutes. With difficulty I establish an upright posture, don my bathrobe, and emerge into the muted lighting of an unfamiliar hotel hallway.
"Grandmaster Ivanchuk! Your game began fifteen minutes ago!", a nearby voice bellows. A few seconds later, I am given a box of clothes entitled "FIDE Sartorial Emergency Pack". While putting them on I try to come to grips with my situation. First off, I don't actually know how to play chess - I'm a NASA Scientist by trade, and the last thing I remember before this morning was someone saying, "Fred, you switched off the relativistic parallel universe modulator, right?". Anyhow, though the situation is weird I have to say there's been stranger ones at the lab I work at, like when Fred was turned into a Iceberg and we had to accelerate global warming to get him back. Anyhow, I try to follow company procedure on this one, which is to act as natural as possible until help arrives, so I put on my clothes and proceed to the lobby.
There's a lot of people around me, and they look concerned. I enter the main playing hall, and I spy the only empty chair - there's a name on it. Ivanchuk. Wasn't that the name someone said a few minutes ago? I think so. Anyhow, it's the only open chair. I sit in it.
A chessboard, to the uninitiated, is a fearsomely confusing object. The pieces are numerous and fraught with symbolic gravitas. Especially the horse. The ones closest to me are white. I look at my opponent. He's, to the best I can tell, well, I can't tell much. He's got short hair, a thin moustache and a sort of beard. He's also pretty tall and the name placard on his side reads "Topalov". I wait a moment to try and figure out whose move it is and then notice the clock to my left. After a moment's consideration I deduce that I've an hour and twenty-two minutes left to make my move in.
Wow, chess players move slowly.
Perhaps I should take a moment here to explain what's going on, at least as far as I understand it. My lab's main line of research is alternate reality fields, a field of science our government has made a concerted effort to conceal since first discovering it in 1977 when a pair of lobsters stumbled into a inverse retro-ionic field and recorded a Fleetwood Mac album. Anyhow, though there are safeguards in place to prevent such disasters from happening regularly, our agents sometimes push the limits of safety and science to explore the consequences of interdimensional parallax identity transfer, or as more commonly known, accidentally becoming someone else for a short period of time. How short a period of time, you ask? Well, it depends. The longest recorded interpersonal spacefabric interdiction was Frank's Iceberg incident, which took a month and a TON of aerosol deodorant usage. Usually it's more like an hour, so I figure I'll just wait this one out. Hell, whomever this "Ivanchuk" guy is will still have over twenty minutes to make his first move once he returns to this/his body.
Time passes. There's a definite buzz in the hall. Apparently it's bad form to take so long on your first move? I don't know, but the situation is definitely getting awkward and Topalov keeps getting up, shaking his head, pacing, and so forth. Things are tense. Perhaps I should just make a move, any move, just to calm things down a little. Unfortunately, I can't remember a single rule of chess. I think there's one about pawns becoming queens, but the details are fuzzy. I rack my memory for anything at all about the game of chess but to no avail. Then it suddenly hits me - I can look at the other games going on for clues! I get up and examine the board behind me where a mild mannered middle-aged Indian man is playing some orange juice drinking kid. The position is as such:
After a short pause and quizzical glance in my direction the orange juice kid moves the pawn directly to the right of his queen two squares forward. Eureka!, I think to myself - since I currently have a pawn on a similar square, I can play likewise. I then notice that the Indian's clock, upon being restarted, doesn't reset and continues counting down from its current time. Uhoh. I return to my board, glance at my clock, and realise that I must move, and quickly.
*** To Be Continued ***