Those days felt so far away now as I studied the chess board keenly. Sullivan was a poised fellow with hard dark eyes that seemed to be disposed of any real emotion; they were like those of black carbonaceous rock. Eyes made of coal. Strong gusts of wind shook the house causing it to creak. Kassidy sat by the window lost in the deep worlds of whatever she was reading.
As we played for our second game, I took notice that Sullivan was patient, and methodical with each of his moves. He seemed to always open with the Grünfeld defense, nothing too adept but it was clear he knew what he was doing. I moved Pawn to D5, in which he countered by replacing my Pawn with one of his own. The gameplay was quick and precise with his Queen ultimately toppling my King followed up with that phrase of triumph,
“How?” I asked with a bit of frustration in my voice.
“If by “How” you mean, how did I come to beat you yet again then the answer is simple. You are the prey and I the predator.” Sullivan stated as he begun to reposition his pieces back into their rightful place on the board.
“I don’t follow,” I said placing my pieces into their squares.
“In the wild apex predators do not attack their victim, no that would leave too many mistakes, too many variables that could go wrong. The prey could outrun and elude the predator or can call for back up to assist. A seasoned predator knows better than to just chase after a kill. Instead, they stalk their prey, study their prey movement, lure them into a false sense of ease.” Once the game board was set Sullivan extended his in an inviting gesture. “Again?” I nodded a yes with Sullivan opening with Pawn to D4.
“I’m not sure I get how that collates to the game.” I was bewildered as I moved Knight to F6.
“The art of chess is no difference, there is a predator, and there is a victim.” Sullivan moved Pawn to C4 “The board is the wild in which the game of predator and prey is played.”
“And who gets to decide who gets to be what?” I asked moving Pawn to E6.
“We do of course.” Sullivan moved Knight to C3, and I in returned played Bishop to B4 knowing that he is going into his signature opening the Grünfeld Defense.
“Wouldn’t that mean we both become predators?” I smiled assured that this round would be mines. He had achieved two wins over me; I was determined to keep him from gaining a trifecta, Claire was the only one that would beat me thrice in one seating before calling it game. Sullivan moved his Bishop to G5, I moved my Bishop to take his knight from C3, but he swiftly thwarted with Pawn B2 to take my Bishop recapturing his area.
“Is that what you believe?” he asked. Damn, I wasn’t thinking, I was getting ahead of myself, but the game is still in its infancy. I’m still in control. Moving Pawn to H6, I baited him to either have his Bishop take the newly move Pawn or my knight knowing he would take the bigger fish if his was threaten to be taken. He, of course, took the knight, but I was able to capture his Bishop with my Pawn from G7 to reclaim my square. The game was now tied with both of us at a loss of a knight and a Bishop; again I was in control, I would be the predator this round. Sullivan placed Pawn from E2 to E4. The room got silent again as we stared into each other’s eyes, only the howl of the wind blowing about outside. I would think it was Alex with stuffy nose letting out those violent sneezes that ended two of the three little pigs, but he was here in my home playing a game of chess with not even a sniff.
“I’m not sure,” I answered as I moved my remaining knight from its original spot to A6.
Sullivan moved his last Bishop from F1 diagonally to where his knight once stood.
“By now I’m sure you are telling yourself that you are in control of this match.” My eyes widened at the accuracy of his assumption. Was he able to read minds? Had he been in my head this whole time knowing exactly the moves I would make. “From the slight gesture of your face I’m right in my statement,” Sullivan smirked. How did he know what I was thinking? Was he reading my mind, no, don’t be silly he’s just playing mind games, basic tactics, you are not a basic player. You are not the prey. I shift Pawn C7 to C6 to which he moved Pawn F2 to F4.
I change the position of my Rook vertically from H8 to G8 and Sullivan moved his Queen from next to her King out into the field of A4. Rook from G8 to G4 only to have his Pawn change from G2 to G3 blocking my Rooks advancement. If I take his blocking Pawn, then his corner Pawn in square H2 will take it, and if I moved either left or right, the blocking Pawn would take it either way. My Rook was trapped, with no visible way out but back or hold. He was in my head now, more then I thought he would be. I felt like I was back at that classroom during recess, Claire feeding me advice while kicking my ass all in one go.
With careful consideration I repositioned Pawn B7 to B6, Sullivan took his Knight from G1 to E2. This match had become a battle zone, each piece a soldier killed on the battlefield with their bodies hauled away. I had not felt the pressure like this since those chess competitions of my youth, back to when Claire was so full of life and vigor. Sullivan was better than good; he was a pro. Although it aggrieved me a tad to admit this, I knew it to be true. I placed my second Rook from A8 to B8, with Sullivan moving his from A1 to D1.
I gamble my next move knowing I could take advantage but had he already foreseen the move before I could make it? Was I playing prey to this apex predator? Don’t let him play head games with you, focus on the game. I settle down, looked into his eyes, those eyes made of coal, and played my move with certainty. This time I would trap him, make him move where I needed him to move. I took Pawn from B6 to B5 knowing he would capture it with his awaiting Pawn in C4. Once his Pawn from C4 caught my Pawn in B5 I then would have my Pawn in C6 ambush his in hopes that his Queen would take the bait to capture my Pawn so that my second Rook, who was patiently looming in its place, could strike killing his Queen and handing me the moral of the board.
“You understand why chess is so sophisticated Nero?” Sullivan placed his hand over his Queen. “Because it paints everyday life into sixty-four squares and sixteen individual pieces. With anyone with the right hand able to take the King.” His hand hovered over that Queen like a dark cloud; I could feel a minor quake of excitement in my hands as I held them together. “It is a war zone where anyone can be an enemy, even those of our own eyes.” I shifted my gaze from the board back into those cold unsettling eyes. He was staring at me, staring at me in the same manner you stare into a book that grabs hold of your attention.©Kwamè “Amir” H.
Click Here to help support me in funding my goal of starting a comic book
You can also purchase my first self-published anthology of poems and erotic shorts from Amazon.