One minute before nine everyone takes their place at the board.Whether chastened or
elated by our opponents grade, now is the time we compose ourselves for the coming
struggle,as the tournament controller, surrounded by his marshals, reads to us the rules
of this engagement. Now each one checks his own and his opponent's clock, making sure
it's set correctly and in good working order. Some of us will use this as a mutual ice-breaker,
shaking hands and exchanging names; others will be weighing up their opponents surreptitiously,
sly-eyed, with many an under-browed glance; and some will just sit staring into some sort of
distance of their own, perhaps suffering from a sudden bout of opening insecurity which is
beyond the reach of any tranquilizer.
Everybody looks and is dressed differently and if asked would probaly give a different
reason for becoming a tournament soldier. Some might reply that it was love of the game,
others the thrill of the chase, a pyschic hunt, but the truth of the matter is we're all
trying to prove something, and our striving has become an addiction, warping our sleep,
claiming our lives.
Talent and youth, bright middle-class children with psychopathic tendencies - that's
whats needed for success at tournament chess; with the empthasis on youth. And so their
mums send them forth with the Spartan mother's warning: come back victorius or don't come
back at all. Well it is a discipline, codes-rules-values, and part of the code is to shake
hands, win or lose, with friend and foe alike. The ritual is repeated before and after each
game regardless of results. Over come the hands: small,large,medum,enormous,dainty,
delicate, strong,weak,hard,soft,limp,damp,and dry. After this sporting gesture one is
free to cheat,lie,jostle,harangue,pace up and down, fart loudly,laugh,cry,sneeze,bang the pieces
down,intimidate,glare,and stare until the game ends once more in a gentlemanly handshake.