A First Loss
“Greetings,” he said, “my name is Mario de la Mancha.” I was going to lose. You don’t beat a guy at chess with a name like that. He was probably winning chess while still suckling his mother. I was doomed. “Hi,” I said. “May I inquire as to your rating?” “I’m provisional. I’ve only played a few rated games.” He bowed slightly, a smile on his face. “I see.” We sat down. We each had seventy minutes on the clock. It was my move. I opened; he countered. I moved; he slammed down his next piece. My five-minute well-thought moves were instantly countered by his yawning ten-second moves. It was as if he’d played this game before. Thirteen moves later he swung around his knight (I’d established an early King’s Indian), took a bishop, and mated me. I shook his hand. He shrugged. “That was quick,” I said. He stared back. “It happens.” Why did I feel like he wanted to eat me? “Well, thanks,” I said. He shrugged again. In the basement of a small-reformed church, we were the first ones finished. I stood up and wandered. The carpet was a coffee-stained blue. Fluorescent lights illuminated the other fifteen games. It was cold. I crossed my arms for warmth as I watched a local master ponder his next move. “You’re Lopez is weak,” Mario said over my shoulder. “Excuse me?” “You’re Lopez, it is weak. You were only three, maybe four moves deep. If you want to play here, then learn your openings.” “Ok,” I responded. Somebody shushed us. I had a lot to learn.