A Narrative Essay on Chess

“A Grandmaster needs to retain thousands of games in his head, for games to him are what the words of their mother tongue are to ordinary people, or notes, or scores to musicians.” -Garry Kasparov

I always wondered why everyone that Mr.Rapp went against never prevailed. It intrigued me, so much in fact, that I wanted to try and take him on for myself. But, before even considering a match with him, for weeks on end, I closely observed Mr. Rapp’s style of play, the expressions he made when he was about to strike, and what exact openings he most often used. I surprisingly found that his style was somewhat similar to mine, especially with him favoring the Queen’s Gambit. But, of course he was better, better in the sense that he had more experience, but better was what I wanted to challenge and maybe even beat.

It was about 5 minutes before the end of the school day and for chess club to begin. I hurried out of my class to the club, nervous. After all the weeks I had observed Mr. Rapp ever so carefully, I collected all my nerves and challenged Mr. Rapp to a match. At first he was astounded that I even asked him as he said, “Okay, I will play you for today, though I thought you would have went the whole year without asking. And I have been watching you lately, your game has most definitely improved since the you first came here. I am sure this will be quite a match.”

As I set up the board there was this heaviness in my chest. What if I embarrass myself? Everyone looks at me as one of the best, what if this match changes all that? But there was this other feeling, a feeling of hope that said that I could be the first one to beat Mr. Rapp this year. I imagined the victory of beating Mr. Rapp so vividly through a close and exhausting game . The thought of being the best in the school reverberated through the air of my mind. “Are we gonna play or not?” Mr. Rapp questioned, interrupting my thoughts. I shook off the victorious celebration that was occurring in my head and replied, “May the better man win.” And we shook hands.

The game was now in session and I hoped to confuse Mr. Rapp with a different opening that avoided the Queen’s Gambit. It was a strategy that I had successfully practiced on my dad all weekend and I prayed it would work the same in this game . But Mr. Rapp moved his Bishop to the sixth rank, attacking my knight, destroying my positional advantage. My stomach was turning, and I didn’t want to show it, but it was already too late, as I looked up and locked eyes with Mr. Rapp, seeing the excitement in his eyes.. I was trying not to lose, trying to get out of this nightmare, so that I could restore the feeling of victory that I pictured before. It was the middle of the game and Mr. Rapp kept shifting in his seat and giving me a toothy smile. I knew something was up, I examined the board several times but no matter how many times I ran my eyes over the checkered pattern, I couldn’t determine if he had the upper hand or if he was simply trying to throw me off. I cautiously moved my knight, retaining a better position, and the confident smile came off Mr.Rapp’s face. At that moment I knew I was safe and still had a chance of winning.

The game lasted for hours, as we had both agreed to not play with a clock. I knew it was a mistake to not play with a clock, as Mr. Rapp had took most of the time to make his moves. I was so tired that could no longer pay attention to the board. The worst part was that Mr.Rapp’s disturbing smile had returned as he moved his queen to the left, the B-file, forking my King and Bishop, “Check.” He declared in a manner that seem to rebuke my every option to move save the Bishop. I looked at the board dismayed with my poor observation. Why had I moved my bishop to attack his knight in the first place? And why didn’t I recapture his knight with my knight, rather than my pawn which is the reason that got my king in check. Although almost three exhausting hours may have lowered my concentration, I wasn’t giving up. I would just have to muster up more focus and be more careful when scanning the battlefield.

I looked at the board for way to escape and there it was, my knight! The Knight could take his Queen. My eyes widened realizing that the game wasn’t over. Mr. Rapp’s expression was confused as he looked over the board, and he then realized what I saw. I moved the Knight into the Queen’s place knowing I still had a chance to win this game. But, Mr. Rapp had, smiled , as if he had planned for me to take his Queen. He was already moving his Bishop before I could realize that the game was over. Mr. Rapp said the words, the words that acted like a dagger that struck deep into my heart, “Check-mate!”. He had waited for a second, so that I could verify that it was a Checkmate. And then there was this deep sigh that I couldn’t contain, I offered my hand that hung like a dead body, and shook his and said “Good game.”

With only 3 and a half years of experience, I managed to keep up with an opponent who had been playing chess for nearly a two-generations. Though I was afraid of being beaten, Mr. Rapp’s expertise pushed me to make progress, not only at chess but in life. I now realize that you have to have challenges, and discipline because it is what drives you to improve.

Check and mate!


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