Today we begin a seven-part, 10,000 word serialized novelette entitled: "Three Move Opening, A Checker Romance." It's our current intention to publish one installment per month from December 2017 through June 2018. We hope you enjoy our latest addition to the literature of checker fiction.
Reggie didn't necessarily find English Literature a thrilling subject of study, but it was something he had to get through. But couldn't it have a least been something a little more contemporary? At the rate the instructor was going, they wouldn't even make it out of the 16th Century before the end of the term.
Reggie was a student at Weymouth College, which was unsurprisingly located in Weymouth, on England's southern coast. Reggie had lived in the area for all of his 20 years, and really hadn't given much thought to going anywhere else. The Dorset area was nice, he loved the sea and the relatively mild seasons, at least by English standards, and he knew he never could have stood the hustle of London.
Dr. Peter Forbes Rowan, the instructor, was at the moment waxing enthusiastic about Chaucer. Reggie, whose enthusiasm was somewhat less, stifled a yawn and let his thoughts drift. There was a draughts exhibition that evening in the Student Union to be given by Dante Oldman, a great master of the game.
"Bored, Mr. Pastor?" The instructor's voice jarringly interrupted Reggie's little reverie. That was followed by a sinking feeling as Reggie realized the instructor was addressing him.
"Mr. Pastor, I asked you a question. Does Chaucer bore you? If so, I'm quite willing to excuse you from this class, permanently, if you so desire."
Reggie squirmed in his seat. All eyes had turned upon him, but he especially noticed Katie Walton staring in his direction, with what almost seemed to be a look of disappointment. Katie, a pretty blonde of about Reggie's age, normally sat toward the front of the classroom and participated eagerly.
"Um, no, sir, I'm not bored, I just didn't sleep well last night is all and ..."
"Excellent improvisation, Mr. Pastor," the instructor replied. "But from now on, please get sufficient rest and at least make an attempt at showing some interest."
Did Katie smile, if ever so briefly, before turning her attention back to the front of the classroom?
Reggie managed to be attentive for the rest of the class period, and the instructor didn't seem to notice that Reggie's gaze was focused more on the back of Katie's head than it was on the blackboard.
# # #
The draughts exhibition was to start at seven o'clock in the evening. Reggie figured he could defer homework until the following morning, even though he had a pretty long math assignment to do, and of course Dr. Rowan had assigned another of the Canterbury Tales to read. "In Middle English, please," he had said, "we don't want to ruin the experience with some horrid modern translation." Ugh. Well, Reggie told himself he'd get through it. Tomorrow.
Draughts wasn't the most popular sport at Weymouth College, but it still had enough of a following, and of course the presence of a superstar like Dante Oldman would draw at least a small crowd. Mr. Oldman was going to take on all comers in a "simultaneous exhibition" with dozens of checkerboards arranged on tables making a large circle. Mr. Oldman would play all of the games at once. There would be room for about fifty participants, and Reggie made sure he was near the front of the line when the doors to the venue opened.
Reggie passed the remaining time reading an old draughts book he had brought with him, sight-solving the problems with little difficulty; he had done most of them dozens and dozens of times. But finally, at a few minutes to seven, the line started to move forward and into the room.
Reggie quickly sat down at a draughts board, putting his book into his backpack and hanging it from the back of his chair. He recognized some of the others from the college draughts club, and nodded at a few of them as they too got settled.
Within about five minutes, most of the fifty boards were taken up by eager draughts players. There were only a couple of boards still vacant when Dante Oldman made his entrance.
He was impressive in every way. He dressed like a 19th century scholar, and he had a commanding presence, with piercing eyes that told of great intellect and prowess. He exuded confidence. The idea of playing almost fifty boards at once didn't seem to faze him in the least.
There was a polite round of applause from the assembled particpants, and the event's host, the president of the draughts club, made a brief introduction and then explained the rules of the exhibition. Mr. Oldman gave a slight bow and the exhibition was underway.
Reggie had already made his first move and was waiting for Mr. Oldman to reach his table, when out of the corner of his eye he saw someone arrive at the last open board. He glanced briefly in that direction and did a mental double-take, then took another look.
Suddenly Mr. Oldman was in front of him, offering to shake hands. Reggie tore his gaze away and, almost reluctantly, greeted Mr. Oldman, who then made his own first move and went on down the line to the next board.
Katie? At the draughts exhibition? A Chaucer enthusiast, no less?
Reggie knew he was going to have some trouble concentrating on his game this evening.
His game went on, although there were not-infrequent glances directed by him toward the end of the room where Katie was sitting. For some reason, he found the way she picked up the checkers and moved them utterly fascinating. Those long fingers, at once delicate and strong; her air of quiet confidence; the way her blond hair hung when she leaned over the board; it was just a magical combination.
But Reggie realized he had a combination of his own to make. His game had reached a critical point, and he was about to lose a man. But he thought he might see a way through; he had better bear down and concentrate fully. He'd have to will himself not to take his eyes off the board.
Could he get a draw against someone who was arguably England's best draughtsman?
The position on the board was as follows.
Reggie spent a while thinking, using his one-time option to wave Mr. Oldman off to gain extra time to consider his move. But finally, Mr. Oldman returned to Reggie's board on the next trip around, and Reggie had to make his move.
To see the rest of Part 1 and the solution to the position, click on Read More.
Solution and Conclusion of Part 1
Play continued as follows.
6-2---A 18x27 14-10* 27-31 2-6* 3-8 10-7* 16-19 7-3* 8-12 3-8* 11-15 6-10---B 31-27 8-11 27-32 11x18 19-23 18x27 32x23. Drawn.
A---The only move to draw. 6-1 loses as White cannot recover the lost piece.
B---8-11 also draws, but the computer prefers the text move.
Mr. Oldman took in the position, scratched his head briefly, and then smiled. He put out his hand. Reggie shook it. "A draw," Mr. Oldman said. "Well done, young man. Not many players could have found that draw. What's your name?"
Reggie told him. Then Mr. Oldman reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. "Call me some time," he told Reggie. "I think you have potential and I'll like to talk with you."
Oldman went in the direction of the door, where the event organizer joined him. Reggie suddenly realized that his had been the last game, and everyone else had already gone home.
Oldman won 49 of the 50 games he played in the exhibition. The only exception was Reggie's lone draw.
Reggie looked over at the now-empty board at which Katie had played, and sighed. He had hoped to impress her with his play against Mr. Oldman. Didn't pretty girls go for that sort of thing? Reggie was certain of it. But it would all have to wait until the next day.