The Chess Players, a Vettriano inspired oil painting by Theo Michael

He Pulled The Trigger.... Chess, It's Only A Game.

The Chess Players, a fictional short story by Theo Michael

‘March is the drunk month, you know that, don’t you?’ I asked Peter.
 ‘What are you on about?’ He replied, ‘I’ve never heard that expression before.’

 ‘I got it from my father,’ I answered, ‘To describe the unpredictable weather, one minute sunshine, the next moment dark clouds and thunderstorms.’

Needless to say, for our stroll we couldn’t decide jackets on or off. We went without but kept our hats on, just in case. My walk with Peter along the beach was becoming a regular thing. A bit of fresh air did us a world of good.
Peter and I go way back. It still brings a smile to my face, remembering the first time I met him. His wife, a petite lady, one you wouldn’t want to mess with, had him by the ear and made him return all the goods he had stolen from my house, screaming at him, ‘apologise to your neighbour!’ Yep, poor chap. He apologized profusely many times, and you felt sorry for him. Once you got to know him, deep down he had a heart of gold. He had a compulsion to acquire things, but he’s outgrown it now. I think.

We would soon be approaching Nick’s Cafe, my cousin’s. We lost contact for years. No harm done, he was far too competitive and edgy for me. He started touring when he became the school’s chess champion. He developed quite an ego when he used to play 10 games simultaneously, winning almost all of them... all of the time.  Until that kid from Russia put him in his place.

 He only had his memories now and his pride and joy, a wooden chess set, previously owned by royalty. It is rumoured that he paid in excess of 10.000 Euros for it. He could afford it, his cafe was making a fortune.

Nowadays you would find him most days outside his cafe along the beach, with his competition size chess set and table, ready for any mug willing to play.
I felt like a mug today, but fingers crossed a lucky one.  I sat down and moved King’s Pawn up two squares. Nick didn’t miss the invitation to play. He poured himself a drink and sat opposite me. He never spoke much and took it all very seriously, considering himself to be the cool and collected type.
I was careless early on, losing a pawn. He looked up, mocking, ‘A pawn advantage, that’s enough for me to win!’ And of course he did. The second game I fared a little better. Our pieces were both hunched up in a corner when I heard him murmur, ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer,’ as he checked my king. I resigned at this point. For the final game I needed to be more cunning if I was to get anywhere.
I noticed he was getting slightly careless and I was going to use that to my advantage. His confidence was going to be his undoing. He kept his opening moves the same and castled to king side early on in the game. I pushed my opening pawn up, not allowing his knight to sit on its usually guarding square. We both established our major players early on, but my strategy was going to be different. I was going to make a sacrifice! He looked surprised when my bishop took his pawn opening his safe castle position. He spoke again, ‘Making me an offer I can’t refuse.’

I asked him. ‘What is it all with these Godfather quotes?’
He replied, ‘It’s all about life and family. Could have been my life you know.’
He took the bait and made his move, capturing my bishop. I was two points down, but his queen was misplaced.

He sipped on his whisky and I could see that he was suddenly getting agitated, realizing that he couldn’t get back in time to protect his king. His friend who was following the game intently leaned over and offered a cigarette to ease the tension.

The tables had turned. The split second I was going to announce checkmate, Nick stood up, knocking the board and pieces of the table, pulling out a gun and aiming it at my head.
I froze in panic. He pulled the trigger... and a flame appeared. He coolly lit his cigarette and said, ‘Chess, it’s only a game.’ They laughed in amusement and Nick mocked, ‘Wasn’t that real funny?’

Yeah, the gun was a fake, merely a cigarette lighter. ‘Well I’m not exactly laughing, am I?’ I mumbled back. What a poor loser, robbing me of my well deserved victory.

That evening I was very restless; the incident was running through my head. I hatched a plan and decided to call on Peter who was still working in his garage as I pulled up on his drive.
 He looked up. ‘You got this evil look in your eye. I don’t want to know what’s going through your head, but I am sure you are going to tell me anyway.’

I asked ‘Do you still have those foam boxes with the long handles?’

‘Yes I do, but whatever your plans are, keep me out of it.’

‘We need four of them and your special kit. I’ll explain on the way, but I really need you for this.’ And of course, he tagged along.

As we approached my cousin Nick’s grand house Peter noticed that the lights were off, he was relieved. ‘No one is home’ he exclaimed, ‘We might as well leave.’

‘Exactly, no one is home,’ I said, ‘Sunday nights he always visits his mother.’

Peter guessed what I was about to do, the better part of him tried to stop me, but deep down I could see his excitement and the adrenaline going.

We cut through the wire fence and quietly crept to the house from the side to avoid the alarm sensors. The first sensor was behind the beautiful Roman columns, I knew, as I had played here many times as a child.

I eased the foam box over the sensor and of course it didn’t register, easy as pie. ’Pete get me in here.’ I pointed to the front door.

 He mumbled, ‘You better know what you are doing.’ He was up for it. Picking a lock only takes minutes, but a lifetime of knowledge and the right tools.
We were in. The second sensor was located by the kitchen area, and that too was soon put out of action. I asked Peter to get to the master bedroom and disable that motion sensor as well.

I approached the games room. The fireplace was a work of art. It was a beautiful large room with a full sized snooker table to the right and a bar to the left. Nearby was the library with two deep red chesterfield armchairs, either side of Nick’s most precious possession, the Chess Set. It sat on a lavishly decorated pedestal, only fit for kings is how he described it. Pete returned from the bedroom, ‘That sensor is out of action too. So tell me, why are we here?’

I wasn’t listening, my mind was elsewhere. I picked up one piece gently, feeling the weight in my hand. The white horse, intricately carved, a work of art in its own right. ‘Hmm lovely piece, is it not?’

I took out a little hacksaw and started to saw off the horse’s head with great pleasure. A look of disbelief appeared on Peter’s face, followed by a smirky grin.

 I said, ‘Let’s get to the bedroom.’ Strange how little things can bring such great satisfaction. I placed the horses head gently under the satin sheets.

‘This is a message for you Nick. You say chess is only a game. Well I’ve got news for you. The Godfather is only a movie. Get a life.’

‘Come on Pete, let’s get out of here.’

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