This week's story is another one from John's wacky mind:
“I sure can, Michael!” replied Katya. “This match is heated! Silvanov opened with the Dragon’s Crown and Chomski answered that with the Revenge of Napoleon. What we’ve got here, Michael, is a little situation we like to call the Sailor’s Knot. Chomski has lost his queen and his king sits poised to be destroyed unless he has something up his sleeve.”
The announcers’ voices boomed throughout the stadium of thousands of people watching the match on an enormous LCD screen. The contestants themselves sat upon the stage, dwarfed by their own images, an almost impossibly small table between them, divided into the sixty-four black and white squares. A graveyard of dead pieces lay between the board and a dual timer with one button depressed. The two men stared down at the board, their brows furrowed.
Michael’s voice sounded through the stadium and over the wires. “Pressure is on for Silvanov,” he said. “As most of you know, Silvanov is the underdog in this bout. He only came on the scene two years ago, like a ghost out of nowhere. Chomski is a tried and tested player and he’s come close to winning the Grandmaster Finals two years ago. He was defeated by Toppel in a margin win and he’s been crawling his way back ever since. He now faces…oh, hang on. Looks like Silvanov has found a move! He’s sending his knight to attack Chomski’s rook at G6!”
Silvanov said something that made Chomski slam his hand down on the table and sit back in defeat.
Michael leapt on it. “Oh, folks! I think Silvanov has called out checkmate!” The crowd roared its approval.
Katya jumped in. “Wait a moment, wait a moment! Chomski is leaning forward and it seems he is contesting the checkmate. I have to say I can’t see anything on the board to show a decisive checkmate.”
Silvanov flushed bright red as the camera zoomed in on his face. He stammered something incomprehensible and the camera panned over to Chomski, who sat back, his frown of concern transforming into a glare of annoyance. Then he returned his attention to the board once more.
“It looks like the checkmate is false and now, Chomski is jumping back into the fray to counter Silvanov’s move, but he looks a little unsettled,” said Katya.
“Maybe this was a diversion tactic to throw him off his game?” Michael suggested.
“If it was, I don’t think it worked,” said Katya.
“Maybe Silvanov is feeling threatened by the older player’s experience,” Michael speculated.
Katya agreed. “Dmitri Chomski is a strong player. He is calculating and methodical, rarely giving in to emotion for his moves.”
“You played him a few years ago, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” Katya confirmed. “He almost defeated me with his signature Search and Destroy, but I was able to counter it with a Foster Child. It was the move that made the news take notice of me.” A note of pride entered her voice. “They called me ‘the one to watch’ after that.”
“The one to watch now is Silvanov,” said Michael. “He has been working his way through each of his opponents. This is the first I’ve gotten to see him in action, but his style is…is…well, how would you describe it, Katya?”
“It’s erratic, Michael. He seems to have no system of movement, no pattern to discern, but rather a slash-and-run tactic. It’s a frightening prospect to come up against someone you can’t study and predict.”
“Well, if Chomski is scared, he’s making the best of it,” said Michael. “He’s executing a perfect Vodka Over Ice. That’s going to put the pressure back on Silvanov.”
Before the announcers could say anything else, a loud sound of flatulence came from the stage and Silvanov blushed to the roots of his hair. He wouldn’t look at anyone else, but kept his gaze upon the pieces in front of him.
“Was that-? Yes, folks, I believe our underdog is a little nervous. His stomach must be feeling a bit gassy.”
“It doesn’t seem to be slowing him down,” said Katya. “He’s sliding a bishop into place with a classic Kitten’s Fur Coat. That’s a very bold move at this stage of the game.”
“Just like you were saying – his playing is unpredictable,” said Michael, “and he never touches the pieces with his skin. Have you noticed that?”
“Believe it or not, I heard from some of the other players that he refuses to touch the pieces with his skin because he feels the microbes on the pieces will screw up his mental clarity.”
“Doesn’t seem to be affecting him. That Kitten’s Fur Coat came out of nowhere…but Chomski is ready for it!” Michael shouted in surprise. “He counters with a Nun’s Cross. Let’s see what that does- wait a minute! What just happened? Did Silvanov just call checkmate again?” The crowd was screaming.
“He couldn’t have,” said Katya. “This wasn’t his move.” Chomski was fuming, the cords on his thick neck standing out in fury.
“It looks like an official is moving in on this.” Indeed, a black-uniformed officiant was striding across the stage. He spent a few minutes speaking quietly with Silvanov. Then he straightened and crossed to Chomski. Slowly, Chomski’s anger faded and he looked at Silvanov with something almost approaching sympathy. Then his game-mask slammed back into place.
“It looks like the checkmate is going to be ignored and we’re going to move on with the game,” said Michael.
“And Silvanov comes back with a Flying Squirrel, sending Chomski’s last bishop off the board,” Katya announced. “Chomski isn’t too happy about that one!”
Indeed, Dmitri Chomski was glowering once more. Silvanov sneezed three times and grinned at the board before him. There were only four of Chomski’s white pieces, while Silvanov had six black pieces still in play, including his own queen.
“Time is ticking away for Chomski,” said Michael. “He’s gotta pull something soon or-”
“And he leaps in with the Bait and Switch!” Katya hollered. “It’s a desperate move, but it’ll keep him out of trouble if Silvanov doesn’t see the-”
“-Snowy Mountain!” Michael crowed. “Silvanov was ready for it and Chomski is down to only two defenders for his king.” Silvanov triple-sneezed once more.
“Michael, unless Dmitri Chomski has something incredible up his sleeve, this game is over,” said Katya. “That king is in check and within two more moves, Silvanov is going to close the deal.”
She was right. As the players offered move and countermove, the ending was clear and Chomski knew it. His movement became listless. When Silvanov said, “Checkmate,” a third time, the cheering was almost palpable.
“Silvanov has done it!” Michael shouted. “He’s on to the next round!”
“That was a masterful bit of playing,” said Katya. “He’s a strange player, but he knows what he’s doing.”
Back onstage, Chomski and Silvanov stood and shook hands. Silvanov sneezed three times exactly and Chomski snatched his hand back. Then he left the stage. The victor stayed and took a large bow, then shouted out, “Checkmate!”
“He’s a strange player,” Katya repeated.
“He’s a winner,” said Michael.