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zdrak 1010 ( +1 | -1 )
The Pawns - Endgame & Epilogue This is the last installment in "The Pawns" series. Thanks to all those who read the previous parts and commented on them. It was a pleasure to receive such a positive reaction! All I can do is hope you will enjoy the conclusion of the story...

The Pawns

Part V – Endgame

For a while, Denisov’s King (Mr. Finley, the math teacher) was courting danger as an army of the white pawns and pieces drew closer, using the f5 outpost as a pivotal point. However the Russian player proved that even though he was over the hill, a Grandmaster remains Grandmaster. It will take a heck of a lot more than a “promising American junior” to crush this somber representative of the best chess school on the planet.

Even for a non-expert, this was riveting to watch. His pieces cooperated from the strangest and most unexpected locations, combining kingside defense and queenside action at the same time. He parried Hoang’s large offensive motions with small moves, shifting a Bishop here, a Queen there – usually only for one square at a time, and it was enough.

Of course I should be wishing for Hoang’s victory – he was the local boy, not to mention the fact that a quick win by him would assure me of a chance to spend the evening with my sweetheart – but found myself rooting more and more for the bearded Russian. What can I say, I liked his style. And apparently so did Libby. With each move, she became more and more drawn into the game, wincing at each Knight move, sympathizing with each fallen pawn.

And soon enough, like a flatlined patient after CPR, Denisov’s position started showing outbursts of life. Did Hoang make some mistake pursuing his initiative? Probably he did, but it was too subtle for me to catch. Queens were exchanged, allowing Mrs. Harris to step out of her heavy costume – oh boy, did she look sweaty and filthy, and the game headed for the endgame, in which black seemed to even have some advantage.

Less than half of the original number of pieces remained on the board now. The white ones were pressed back as the black Rook penetrated into the heart of the white position. This endgame was clearly going black’s way, and white should be happy with a draw here. Libby’s brother on b3 seemed to play a pivotal role in the game – black was attempting to advance him towards the queening square, and white was desperately trying to set roadblocks on his way.

Suddenly, a black Rook executed a deft maneuver, landing behind me, on e3. Hoang plunged into though. After a while, I realized the source of his predicament. He clearly had no plausible way to defend me! So that’s it, not only is the bearded Russian going to fell the home-town-boy, but also I am going to miss out on the date of my dreams. Maybe I can just ask Libby to withdraw the clause she put to our meeting? Seeing the tense look in her eyes (she clearly also appreciated the gravity of the situation) I could see that she also regretted this stipulation. But no… you do not tout destiny. After all, we are all but pawns in the big game of life, right? We’re all dependant on the will of the great Chess Player up there – so might as well to submit to it.

Hoang made his move. No, he did not find a way to defend me. I was hanging out to dry, and the black Rook (Mr. Nakamura, gym teacher) was eyeing me evilly. But … Denisov did not capture. Non-challant as always, he moved a knight somewhere else. Did he think that the pawn capture could wait for later? If he did, Hoang showed him the error of his ways. Immediately, he moved a bishop to d3, thus not only defending me, but also cutting Mr. Nakamura’s path to safety. What a turnaround, instead of winning a Pawn black had to lose a Rook for a Bishop.

A hush went through the crowd as they sensed the possibility of a home-team victory. The Rook was gone, and with it’s demise the black position collapsed to shambles. Three more moves by each side, and Will-the-b3-pawn, the pride and splendor of black’s position, also fell to Big Steven the white Rook, who now was on the rampage, having no suitable opponent to stop him. With the grace of a seasoned professional, who was no doubt as used to losing as he was to winning, Denisov extended his hand to his young opponent. “Black resigns!” – Mr. McKinley’s voice almost oozed with delight.

Part VI – Epilogue (not really)

The crowd went wild at the win of the local boy. For a moment, one could think that the playing board reverted to its normal role as a football field! The volume of the clapping and cheering was way over field-goal-levels. It was more suitable for touchdown-with-extra-point. Mr. McKinley took the microphone again, and began to sing praise to the “great intellectual battle” we have just been the witnesses (or participants!) of. But all I could think of was one thing.

“Pizza or movie?” – I asked, turning to Libby with a triumphant smile.
“Why not both?” – she responded with laughter in her eyes.

“You very nice” – a gruff voice interfered with our jubilation.
We turned to see Denisov, who, for some reason, decided to drop by with a visit to the field. A general giving pep talk to the foot soldiers? Isn’t it a bit too late for that? Isn’t the game, like, over? The stands and the playing board were emptying quickly. The survivors of the pitched battle were heading to the showers, and in matter of seconds the three of us were alone.

“You very nice” – he repeated with his horrible Russian accent, struggling to find the suitable English word – “Pair. Couple. Yes. Couple. I watch you from there. Not want … separat?” “Separate?” – I helped him out. “Yes. Not want separate you. It just game of chess, yes? Win, lose, not matter, yes? For nice couple, worth to lose.” After taking another moment to find something suitable to say, he could only repeat: “You very nice couple” – and left.

Libby was the first to regain her speech.
“What did you say his name was?” – she asked.
“Leonid Denisov”
“Ok, I’ll keep that in mind. Let me just apologize to Will, and then we can go have some pizza. And a movie.”

Part VII – Epilogue (this time, really)

That was fifteen years ago. And today, I decided to wake up early to make some finishing touches to this story. As I was busy typing on the clunky keyboard of my ancient PC, I didn’t hear the door opening behind me, or the sound of the approaching footsteps. Only when my wife’s hand landed gently on my shoulder, did I leave my trance-like concentration and became aware of her presence in the room.

“Hi honey, working already?” – she said, leaning to kiss me on the cheek.
“Just a few refinements, sweetheart. Almost done. Be with you in a moment.” – I replied, and she turned to leave, as I noticed a small icon flashing at the bottom corner of the computer screen.

“Libby, wait!” – I called and beckoned her to return to the study. There’s an email here for you. From work, probably.”
“The heck with them, I’m not going to read email on a Sunday morning” – she replied with the same open smile that I remembered so well from that day on the football field, and turned to leave yet again – this time also without success, because at that moment our children burst into the room. The studio I built in my narrow basement was clearly too small to contain the volume of sound and kinetic energy created by two children and two adults, so I had to acknowledge defeat. There will be no more work this morning. So be it.

“Come on, come on out. Back up we all go” – I ushered my family into the living room, where we began planning our next move. Libby suggested the zoo, while I was impartial to a drive to the nearby lake. But the children were not to be swayed.
“We want to go to the park!” – announced Leo, seven years of age, setting his little foot down to mark the issue closed.
“But honey, we went to the park last time” – in spite of all her good measures, my wife sometimes just didn’t know when a battle was lost. Has something to do with the red hair, I guess. “Park, park!” – the five-years-old Dennis joined his brother – “We want to go to the big chess game, with the big knights and…” I exchanged amused looks with the love of my life.

“Ok rascals!” – I said authoritatively, doing my best to feign dissatisfaction – “to the park we go. But next time…!” “Park, park! We’re going to the big chess game!” – Leo and Dennis ran around the room excitedly, bumping into large objects and knocking down smaller ones, as their mother tried to restore order in vain.

After a very short while (which, as you remember, is about fifteen minutes in Thomas Jefferson Junior High-School time) we were all set to go. “Leo, Dennis, you take the center! Forward, my brave pawns!” – I ordered, and the kids were glad to comply and dash ahead. I extended my hand – “Shall we follow them, my Queen?” Libby took my hand and cradled it inside a warm pocket made of her own gentle palms and laughed – “Yes, my King.”

The End

kremator 9 ( +1 | -1 )
Great story!! That was a great story keep writing more zdrak! It was a great end. Made me cry.
lordnguyenvo 11 ( +1 | -1 )
Nice ending. Though isn't that a little put-down for the Russian GM?I thought that GMs travel a lot and they learn languages.
zdrak 14 ( +1 | -1 )

If that's what is bothering you, I can put your doubts to rest. Trust me, I met Lev Psakhis. This is exactly how he treats the English language.

tulkos 5 ( +1 | -1 )
I liked the story very much. You have a nice talent for writing, keep it up!
tulkos 4 ( +1 | -1 )
P.s. True story? at least in part?
zdrak 12 ( +1 | -1 )
Not really ... some odds and bits are stuff that I either experienced or heard of - but mostly figments of my imagination.
raimon 20 ( +1 | -1 )
Nice touch to name your kids after a Russian GM turned Cupid!
Bet they both have red hair and blue eyes!
The noble Josh is the godfather? and perhaps Bestman at your wedding?
More: Chess
victord 40 ( +1 | -1 )
The Pawns Outstanding zdrak!
Most enjoyable thing I've read in these forums since the closing of Social Chat/Flame Wars.
Well done.
You have a talent for storytelling as evidenced by the comments from your readers. The true test was pasted when you left us all wanting more. MORE!

victord 2 ( +1 | -1 )
oops!!! pasted? .... passed
bluebabygirl 14 ( +1 | -1 )
re- a very entertaining and well written story from beginning to end . a definite nice ending . yours with admiration bluebabygirl
r_lawrence 4 ( +1 | -1 )
*puts down his hankies* I just love happy endings!
bellepheron 44 ( +1 | -1 )
Great story! Great idea, great structure, and very well written!

I was expecting the email at the end to end up being a little twist (maybe something from the old Russian GM?), but I love it all in any case.

One thing - I think you used the word 'impartial' when you meant 'partial' near the end where you are talking about wanting to go for a drive to the lake.

All in all though, I think this story would be worth publishing - you should submit it somewhere. It is excellent.
zdrak 70 ( +1 | -1 )
Yes, I lost a "not" somewhere over there right before the "impartial". Double negatives should be treated with care :-)

As for publishing the story, I believe that it's quite a non-commertial material. Chess publications will decline it because the chess-content is not developed strongly enough, and others will decline it because there is too much of chess-content!

It was a nice experience for me to write this piece (and I'm glad you all liked it!), but when I take a step back and look at it with an objective eye I have to admit - heck, if I was an editor, I wouldn't publish it too.

Having said that, I did sent it to several magazines "just in case" - maybe I will be proven wrong ??

chessnovice 14 ( +1 | -1 )
... What if they had a girl? The story would have been ruined!

Leah and Denise just don't have the same meaning to it all.
olympio 8 ( +1 | -1 )
good story was eagerly awaiting the fifth installment and wasn't
disapointed at all. thanks for the effort you put in.