Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I suppose Christmas Day really began at about 1am.

In Frank's living-room I idly let slip that I'd played a bit of chess in my time. Frank's eyes lit up.

"You play chess??? Do you fancy a game now?"

Effortlessly he reached to one side and produced a chess set. I viewed it with some trepidation. His excitement at this revelation was like, well, like watching a kid on Christmas Day.

"Errr...okay," I ventured with some reluctance, "but I haven't played it for years. I'm really no good at it. I just don't have the patience for chess. I always wind-up just letting my pieces get taken so that something actually happens."

"Ohhh, don't worry about that," smoothed Frank, his face suddenly losing all expression, and his eyebrows raising in innocence. "I never play chess. I haven't played it for years either. I just wondered if you wanted a game, that's all."

So, feeling as though I had just challenged Death to a staring match, I asked Frank if he was usually black or white. He said he really didn't mind. Clearly this game of strategy had already begun.


I chose to open with what I like to call "The Goble Maneuver." Ever since junior school I've opened with these moves, and lost. The reason I keep using The Goble Maneuver is 2-fold:

1: When I played British child chess champion Demitrios Agnos at Scout camp once, he'd repeatedly told people (after beating me) that I had a very strong opening.

2: If I'm going to lose the game quickly, I may as well get my only good move in.

Basically I move my knight's pawn forward 1, bring out my bishop next to it, and then castle.

Frank's eyes narrowed. I tried to look tired already. Slowly Frank began his attack.

It didn't work.

To my amazement, I was actually holding my own against this guy.

This went on for a while. I've never been able to project all those strategic scenarios that great chess-players do, but here I was successfully winging it, until about 45 minutes had passed. Then something quite unexpected happened.

Frank was on the attack. I moved my knight forward. There was a pause. Frank broke the silence. "That was a good move."

I looked, as expressionlessly as I could. My goodness - he was right! That actually was a good move!

Suddenly Frank was on the run, and for the first time I actually started to believe that I could win this game!

Time went on. Frank regrouped. I advanced a bit. Then I made a stupid mistake.

It wasn't quite as stupid as moving my queen to diagonally in front of one of his pawns, but, well all right, it probably was that stupid. It was at this moment that the game jumped the shark anyway.

I couldn't be bothered anymore. Frank took piece after piece until, as is so often the way, I was left just moving the poor King one square at a time until there was nowhere left to go.



I'd lost.

If it were any consolation, the post-match post-mortem solidified in both our minds what a truly great game this had been. Now that there was no secrecy, we could discuss our strategies openly, and come clean about our what our various plans had been.

"That's what I love about chess!" Frank was enthusing, the light back in his eyes, and the excitement flowing in his voice. "You think you've got everything figured out, and then suddenly a move can just come out of nowhere and change everything!"

"Mmmmm," I acknowledged, before voicing what I had concluded a good hour ago now. "It was all baloney wasn't it? The way your eyes lit up when I first mentioned chess, the way you just happened to have a chessboard within arm's reach, on the floor, even though you claimed that you hadn't played it for years? You play this game regularly, don't you Frank?"

Frank admitted everything, before adding "Of course, you could have worked it out from all the chess books behind me."

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