The way the road twisted and turned made my stomach churn. The driver, if you wanted to call him that (I preferred mr death wish), sped along barely looking at the road.

“You be here log? I be here manny yers. I born in bar on farm.”

He prattled on with his odd manner of speech pretending he wanted conversation. By the sheer speed and number of questions unanswered, I soon realized he spoke mainly to himself.

“You com for dis turn impediment?” He said.

I jumped in, “tournament? Yes”

It was like talking to a reverse spell check. I sighed wondering how all this happened,
“It is rather surreal if you think about it, no?”

The mad driver laughed, “no, no it is still Rome, I never go to this Surreal place…they mak some good eatings there?”

I blinked realizing my inside voice escaped from the mushy prison of my brain. Perhaps I needed to sleep a bit more. Between the flight and this lunatic, I felt like Alice, looped out on the acid fed to her by that distrustful rabbit. I smiled at that visual, drug dealing bunnies.

The buildings and narrow streets were a blur and the odd man driving was still prattling on about the new town of Sureal. I didn’t have the energy to correct him, I just wanted to be at my hotel and maybe under some nice clean sheets in a nice comfy bed. I don’t even like chess.

Yes I said it, I hate chess. No matter what anyone thinks of the game and its players, I hate it. The travel, the fans, the players and the unbelievable amount of pressure put on someone who is apparently “good” at it.

I have spent years now travelling here and there for this game. I have played in basements, gymnasiums, classrooms, auditoriums, and any other structure you can name. I have played people with names I cannot pronounce. I have won and lost, but do you know how awesome it feels to win against a 12-year-old when you are 34…better yet, do you know what it is like to lose to one. I swear the game plays with your psyche in ways that most could never understand.

Here is the thing about chess players, they are weird. Not just odd, but severely strange. Most are genius nerds that have been escalated to some strange level of celebrity in their countries. I mean chess is a big deal in some parts of the world, not so much in a small town in Ontario, Canada. Even so chess players are a bunch of wankers.

Do I sound harsh? I am dead on though. I make a living playing chess. It is a meager and brutal life of travel and pressure. If I don’t win, I do not have money to go to the next game. Think of this as a sad rock star on an endless tour where his fans are mainly middle-aged men and women that are completely insane.

These women I have labelled as Chessdolls, and I still marvel at how they are created. I can not even fathom what goes through a woman’s mind when a chess player becomes some sort of grey matter god. These women will follow you anywhere and usually have some sort of weapon they will happily use to show you how dedicated they are. I say dedicated instead of obsessive because it sounds less scary and will hopefully not remind me of the moments in my life that actually make me look over my shoulder in fear.

The players range from kids, to middle-aged men, to old farts. The word fart also is literal, chess players smell. I am not sure what part of genius leads to a lack of hygiene or the love of bodily gasses being shared openly, but fuck, they can rip one down your throat if you are not prepared. I had this discussion once with a fellow player once. He said simply that the mind is focussed on one thing, the game, nothing else.

How sad is that? I really don’t fit in and even now as the car pulls up to a little building crammed between two other buildings, I just do not understand. I know my parents are strangely proud of their son the professional chess player, but listen to that description. Professional Chess Player, it’s a joke!

“I bing you to this grotto. You room with the buggies, yes?” My driver says in that interpretive English of his.

“Buggies? You mean my bags?” I throw out there, completely confused.

“No, you spak this English? I say you room with the buggies. This place know from us, full of buggies…you know, the ones that bitty you all time.”

I let my mouth hang open, awesome, the rock star scores a bug infested hotel on a side street of a foreign land. If only I could say this was new. My life as a pawn, never a fucking king. I pay him, I take my bags, and pray the bugs kill me.

Check and Mate.


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