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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2235748
Andy makes a chess move. Winner SCREAMS!!! October 20 2020.
The Original Move

Andy thought back to the words of his old instructor. “For a game as complex as chess, Andy, the secret is quite simple. Always look for the original move, the one no one else has thought of before. It’s the surprise that throws them off balance.”

That advice had served Andy well on his march through the lower levels of the chess world and it still did, even at his present lofty height of Grandmaster. Now it was being tested as never before, with Andy locked in a match for the world championship. And what a titanic struggle it was proving to be, with first Andy, then Grebowitz snatching the lead by a single game. Now, with one more game to be played, they were tied and everything depended on this final battle.

It was Andy’s turn to have the white pieces and so he had the theoretical advantage of the first move. Everything rested on his retaining that advantage, however, and too often in this match, the initial advantage had slipped away to the opponent. Both of them had somehow contrived to lose more often with white than with black.

So theory declared Andy to be the likely winner but statistics favoured the opposite. Andy knew he must find a move so different, so unexpected, that Grebowitz would be cast out from the secure world of analysed and known developments and into a land where he must figure out the correct response on his own without established precedent to guide him. This was where Andy had glimpsed the crack in Grebowitz’s armour in previous games. When Andy had been able to come up with something new, the characteristic expression of doubt had crossed his opponent’s face as he settled to consider his unexpected situation. And those were the matches Andy was winning.

The problem lay in preparing the surprise move in advance. In most of the games where Grebowitz had played black, he had gone for the Sicilian Defence, presumably because it led to complex games with chances for both sides. But there was no guarantee that he would opt for this line in the final game. With the score tied, it was quite possible that he would try to discomfort Andy by using a more obscure defence, hoping to catch him unprepared. Somehow, Andy must be ready for whatever transpired and that was a tall order, one that depended more on his years of experience than on preparation at this late stage.

Andy knew that he should relax, that worrying about the game would only leave him tired for the actual event. A good night’s sleep was always the best preparation for an important match. But that was more easily said than done. Andy lay awake deep into the night, with chess moves dancing in his head and obscure tactics competing for centre stage.

He drifted away late in the night and dreamed of chess matches he’d won and some he’d lost, only to see the better course of action after the game.

In the morning, he woke with the move he needed in his head. It was incredibly risky, something only to be tried in extremis but, if it worked, it was the key to victory. He worked through the details as the preparations for the day flowed by. There was no doubt about it, this was the move that could change everything.

When the time came and he shook hands with Grebowitz over the board, he heard the words of his instructor once again in his head, “Always look for the original move.”

The game started well enough, with Andy forcing a slight advantage as they circled each other warily. Andy watched his opponent carefully for any signs of weakening but this time the man seemed impassive and unconcerned as the game seemed to turn against him.

Midway through the game, Andy still held an almost microscopic lead over the Russian but it was Andy that was worried. He did not understand the exact point where the game had begun to slip away from him. He had done everything correctly, according to theory, and yet his initial advantage was slipping away ever so gradually. If he could just see where he had gone wrong, he might be able to do something about it but no, it remained hidden in the complications of play. Grebowitz smiled at him from the other side of the table as though he knew precisely the building panic in Andy. His smugness was infuriating to Andy.

The game slipped past the number of moves in their previously longest game. Still the forces were fairly evenly balanced but now, if there was advantage at all, it was Grebowitz’s. Andy knew only too well the signs that he was slipping back and would lose if he could not halt the slide. For the first time, he wondered if he could play for a stalemate. It was very difficult to achieve against a player as experienced as Grebowitz but it just might work if the bastard were getting too confident. The Russian’s grin so angered Andy that he spent a long time looking at the possibility, too long for a person so behind on time already.

With a shrug, Andy dismissed the idea and moved the piece he had decided on before the stalemate had occurred to him.

As soon as he had done it, he knew it was a mistake. If Grebowitz saw the weakness he had suddenly created in his forces, Andy was done for. Worst of all, the Russian was taking his time, apparently enjoying his opponent’s discomfiture. He allowed the minutes to tick by, aware of how Andy’s insides were being twisted by the suspense.

And then he moved and Andy knew he had lost the game and, with it, the championship. He fought on, a desperate rearguard action but only utter defeat loomed. It became clear that his last and only hope was the original move. He had to do it.

Andy stood slowly and looked Grebowitz in the eye. The Russian looked back, a little puzzled since it was more usual to resign by knocking over one’s king. “You are resigning, my friend?” he said.

“No,” replied Andy. He slipped the Derringer from his sleeve and blasted a neat hole in the middle of Grebowitz’s forehead. “Let’s see them analyse that original move.”

Word Count: 1,064
For SCREAMS!!!, October 20 2020
Prompt: The original move.

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