I have always loved/hated the game of Chess.
I admire other players' ability to plot and plan and change strategies depending on an opponent's moves. The Oracle enjoys Chess, and in an old job he had a chessboard set up where he and his opponent would play a game for days at a stretch, each taking his turn when an opportunity arose.
I also vividly remember two men playing a game of chess in a park in Germany, using gigantic pieces that had to be picked up by the player and walked across the chessboard to its destination. I loved that chessboard, and I loved watching them play despite my inability to follow why they were doing what they did.
I stink at chess. I have never been able to focus on the "bigger picture" my sixteen pieces created, let alone think several moves into the future on what I wanted to do. As a result, I've only won one game of chess in my entire life, and I suspect that my victory had much to do with mercy (or possibly fear) from my opponent. If memory serves, I viciously struck him out of pure frustration when he captured my queen. (Okay; so maybe it was fear.)
The mere thought of Chess turns my stomach into an anxious, roiling pit of acid. I believe my Chess Stress began when I was young, maybe nine or ten or eleven years old. My fiercely competitive and startlingly brilliant sister, V, learned how to play and she taught me, but I never "got" the idea of the strategy behind it even though I understood the basic moves of each piece and the object of defending my king while cornering hers.
(On a side note, I sucked at "Stratego" for the same reasons.)
Every game we played (she always played black) never simply ended with the checkmate of my king. She could have cornered and captured me in very few moves, but she chose to decimate my army by capturing nearly every piece and surrounding me. No, a swift victory wouldn't do at all. No, because we had to play "Castles" afterward. My humiliation wasn't yet complete.
In "Castles," we each had half of the chessboard divided at the fold, 32 squares each. Once my king surrendered, he was sent back to his castle in shame along with the few remaining pieces I had when it was over, usually amounting to little more than a few pawns and a Knight or a Rook (the castle). My captured pieces were usually slaves on V's side of the board, and my king spent his "Castle" days bargaining and wheedling and whining for their release. My only true bargaining chips were the few pieces I captured during the game and my "real estate" (my 32 squares on the board), and I usually ended up trading my land to V for prisoners. And I never got them all released, either. And would it matter if they were? At least the prisoners had a place to go while those who were free were now homeless.
To this day the suggestion of a game of chess makes me twitch. It's so bad that when my kids stumbled upon a chess set in the basement and asked about the game, I fought the urge to scuttle it into a nearby trash can.
I have never and have no intention of ever partaking in a Chess battle with The Oracle. We've been married for almost 17 years, and I can't bear the thought of revealing that blighted bit of my psyche. It might just be grounds for custody and an annulment.
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