A farcical opening has me down a rook, two pawns and in check with the game 10 moves old. Only one way back.
‘Esther was asking after you this morning.’
As casual as you like. Don’t look up, let him soak in the information. I drop my bishop back to cover the check. He eases his Queen back to centre. Nothing wrong with that.
‘Did you hear what I said?’
I drag my white-square bishop out. Time to clear the back line.
‘Yeah, I heard,’ he says. ‘But how would you know?’
He shifts his knight to c3. I push my Queen out before he changes his mind.
‘We sat at the same table in the library yesterday.’
Technically, not a lie.
‘And she asked about me?’
An innocuous prod of his pawn. I’ve got him.
‘She wanted to know where you were.’
Out comes the knight.
‘She actually said my name?’
He hauls his bishop to f4, threatening to scupper my plans for a Queen-side castle.
‘She didn’t say it, exactly.’
‘Knew it was bullshit.’
‘It’s true. We weren’t talking. We were exchanging notes.’
A simple check with my Queen. Easy for him to deal with, but it buys me some time.
’So you gonna to speak to her?’
Knight to e2 to block the check. Standard procedure.
‘I don’t know.’
I gallop my knight to e5, blocking his bishop. A Queen-side castle beckons. He stabs a pawn to d4, leaving his bishop unprotected. I toy with one of his captured pawns before swooping for the bishop. He grunts in disgust and sacrifices his Queen to remove mine.
‘What if you’ve got it wrong?’ he says.
‘It was there in black and white.’
My knights are on the move, but such is their enigmatic canter around the board, he hasn’t spotted the danger. I am two moves from mate if he doesn’t make the right move.
He knocks his rook to e1.
Knight to b3 check. It is too late for him now; the game is gone. His king moves forlornly to brief safety, but knight to b2 completes the job.
‘Mate,’ I say, pretending not to notice Esther walking into the room. ‘Let’s get out of here.’
I stand up, but he throws his eyes towards Esther, who is talking to another girl I don’t know.
‘She’s here,’ he whispers.
‘Let me speak to her first, be the intermediary.’
‘No way. I’m going for it.’
But before he can move, Esther approaches the table and glances down at the board.
‘Did you win Adam? Oh well done,’ she beams. We wait for her to acknowledge Tom, but she makes no eye contact. Tom’s eyes bulge like an Amazonian frog as she puts a hand on my arm.
‘I was hoping we could work on our history essays some more. I could do with some more of your help.’
‘Er…yeah, okay.’ My eyes dart across to Tom.
‘Great!’ She kisses me on the cheek. ‘Speak to you later.’
And she is gone, floating out of the room as my heart pounds and vision blurs. When it resets and shapes return, Tom is gone and the chess set – and all its pieces – are strewn across the floor. Not all the pieces. My king stands alone on the desk.
It’s all there, in black and white.
This didn’t come out quite as I wanted, but I enjoyed writing it anyway. I actually went back to an old annotated chess game I played years ago online. The game has always stuck in my mind for some reason. It lacks a hit at the end, but it’s the sort of scene that might be useful in something longer at some point.