EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul describes the strategy he used to beat a far brighter and more favored boy in order to become his high school’s chess champion.
THE CRITICS IGNITE! “In ‘Death of an Arrogant King’ de Hunne of blogging, Paul Sunstone professes himself to be a grandmaster of chess. Shame! Shame! In sincerity, he is ein Hun who has pushed boredom to new and astonishing levels. He has made boredom a form of barbarism. He has weaponized it. An orderly society would crucify Sunstone. Crucify de Hunne just as he himself shamelessly crucifies human decency in the process of excreting his innumerable boring posts upon the world.” — Johanna Meyer, Der Blogkritiker, “Die Fussen-Welt”, Fussen, Germany.
(About a 4 minute read)
I was by no means the school favorite going into the games. Lindsey was only a year older, but already recognized in the whole town as decisively on the brilliant side. By the time the games came down to just Lindsey and me, students and teachers both were talking as if Lindsey already possessed the crown.
Yet in the fall of 1973, at sixteen, I beat Lindsey at chess to become my high school champion — despite the bets against me.
Have you ever started getting condolences before you were actually dead and buried? It was like that for me. Only Dennis — best friend since third grade — loyally pretended I had a chance.
“Don’t worry, Paul, you’re not dead yet. You still have six days before you die, and anything could happen in the meantime. You want me to clip Lindsey with my dad’s car? Land him in the hospital so he can’t kill you? Say the word, bro! I’m up for this.”
Human loyalties are so frequently thicker than morals — or common sense.
In truth, not even I thought I had a chance — at first. There is no such thing on earth that feels sadder or heavier than the heart of a 16 year old in the hour that he must write out his last will and testament the week before a fated competition the whole school is gossiping about. I wasn’t a popular kid, but Lindsey was. He was one of those kids whose every move seemed to be noted and approved of by nearly everyone.
But as it turned out, a stroke of luck gave me the first game, hard-ass concentration allowed me to tie the next three, and a rare stroke of strategic genius gave me the tie-breaker.
You know how at 16 you can see something that you can’t articulate well enough to tell others what you see?
“He really pisses me off, Dennis, he thinks he’s so smart.”
“I know what you mean’, Dennis responded more out loyalty than understanding. “I saw Lindsey go into the Salem Theater an hour ago. The show’s over at nine-fifteen. Dad says I can have the keys tonight. There will be a few innocent, but acceptable, causalities among the bystanders, but we can get him when he comes out. We can win this, bro!”
Of course, what I meant to say to Dennis was that Lindsey was insufferable in his arrogant disdain for both my skills and for me. Moreover, I meant to say that I knew or sensed on some level — some subconscious level — that Lindsey was vulnerable, weak and vulnerable, because he was arrogant.
That’s what I meant to say to Dennis, but “He pisses me off” had to speak those volumes for me.
On the Fated Day of Paul’s Appointed Sudden Death and Suffering, it turned out to be Lindsey’s appointed doom that arrived. Arrived right at the cusp between middle game and end game.
I did not fully grasp my true opinion of Lindsey’s arrogance until the moment I spotted the trap.
I saw it the moment he advanced his knight and thus opened himself to the mere possibility — but not the actual certainty — that he could be checkmated in two moves!
In that moment, it flashed through me just exactly how his arrogant disdain for me could be used to defeat him. Until then, I had not been consciously aware that some part of me had been busy through-out the week taking Lindsey’s measure and summing him fatally flawed.
All now depended on one thing and one thing alone. In order to set the trap, I had to move my bishop to a certain square where it could be slaughtered by Lindsey’s queen. BUT any fool could see that taking my bishop would spring a two move trap to checkmate and dusty death for Lindsey’s king.
Basically it all came down to this: Lindsey was bound to see the trap — but would he in his lofty contempt for me convince himself that I myself did not see it? After all, if his queen could safely take my bishop at the beginning of the endgame, his victory became inevitable.
To give him credit, he was not so arrogant that he made his decision at once. In fact, he took what seemed hours to make it. But in the end, Lindsey committed suicide while thinking he was about to commit homicide.
All because he thought his own handsome abundance of brains meant I had not even my fair share of them. Lindsey, you see, was one of those folks who so adamantly rank everyone and their dogs that he thought that if one person was good, that must mean someone else was bad.
The Lindsey’s of the world rank people so often and so efficiency they cannot see equals even going into a tie breaker after one defeat and three ties have already come before a final game.
When Lindsey offered his hand, I could tell by his face and eyes that he was still in a state of disbelief.
Since that day, I have learned Lindsey’s expression that Saturday morning was the expression we humans sometimes get when we have been run over and flattened by our own egos.