Bonnie and Clyde

By Olimpiu Urcan


Bonnie and Clyde

from a Transylvanian coffee shop

Translation by ICCF-IM V Eugen Demian


I was visiting again this quiet Transylvanian city, like a romantic man returning
to his first love over and over again. A superb day of autumn with incredible
colours around me and a few moments of free spirit time guided my steps to the
local coffee shop. I already knew it was the regular meeting place of well-known
local chess masters and amateurs, as well as young poets, artists, or university students.
Coming through the door, I noticed something unusual that day: at one of the tables,
a pair of retired people, a little old man and his lady, were engaged in an odd chess
game in which the result seemed inevitable. Grandpa had an all around elegance
and a calm expression despite the rather inappropriate strains of music which I
recognised to be the voice of the legendary Edith Piaf . I advanced to the bartender and
ordered my coffee, with my interest now directed toward the position played by those two.



It seemed to be the ending of an extremely sharp tactical battle; this idea came
as a surprise to me and I decided to sit at a nearby table to follow the game.
Both players were not looking like much of a challenge, plus grandpa clearly
had very little chance to save his White position. I looked at the game for a few
more seconds. Satisfied with my assessment, I concentrated my attention on
obtaining the desired mix of coffee and milk. All of a sudden,  my sixth sense gave
me a brief warning signal: I’ve seen this position before, but when and where?
Hmm… Looking again at both players, I dismissed the signal; there’s no way these
guys could have known this position, right? After all, we were sitting in a coffee shop
with two unlikely players – grandma who seemed much more interested in the
ashtray on the table and grandpa with a delicate smile, perhaps looking for the fastest
way to end the game. It seemed there was no hope whatsoever for the White player.

While analysing the position, my concentration was broken when the door
swung open and a group of young local chess players entered the coffee shop.
They were very vocal and noisy, clearly disrupting the peaceful atmosphere around us.
One of them – a young master who lately was showing encouraging signs of
improvement – noticed the odd couple as well and approached the table. Grandpa was
ready to finally make a move; the young man took a quick look at the board and said:

“Why are you wasting this woman’s time? Don’t you see how lost you are?”

Surprisingly, grandpa didn’t seem upset by this completely out of line intrusion,
but replied rather politely:

“Maybe my young friend would care to help the lady win this game?
Also you should consider agreeing to a little bet now, to make it worthwhile.
Are your moves as sharp as your tongue?”

His words, hmm… I quickly looked at the board again and that thought of seeing
something familiar came back, more persistent than ever. Yes, of course! I’ve seen
this before, but where? I couldn’t put my finger on it as much as I tried to…


Obviously grandpa’s words had the desired effect. The young man had a short
discussion with his friends and agreed to play as Black with one condition: the
stakes - double or nothing! Grandpa agreed with a short gesture and grandma
delicately moved away emptying the chair for the new combatant. The entire
group of friends formed a curious, excited crowd.  They were all ready for this
unexpected show, with the young man bursting with confidence and pleasure at
the chance of winning that money under such easy circumstances. On my part,
all those preparation helped me successfully finish my mental search;

I already knew the answers about that position!…

 Grandpa made his first move:


1.Re4+ …


The audience looked as if they were hit by the storm. What is this? Even the young man’s girlfriend could see that White’s Rook was unprotected! She looked at him, all smiles,
just to notice him concentrating more than expected on such a silly looking move.
Maybe he was beginning to understand the complexity of the situation? A while later,
he decided to reply and his move was made with a deflating gesture of someone who
really knew what he’s doing:


1… Kxe4


The next few moves were made in a blitz tempo,
the audience struggling to follow the events.


2.g7+ Kd4 3.c3+ Kc4


One of the waitresses went to the bar and informed the bartender:
“I don’t understand anything anymore”. People in the crowd, some of them pretty
good chess players, were starting to look at grandpa with admiration: he was going
to get his Queen back! As the game progressed,  they realised that  he had
no intentions whatsoever in continuing that way.


4.Bg8+ …


Some were very intrigued by this move. However the young man obviously knew already that 4.g8Q+ … would have been followed by 4… Bf7, with Black taking the initiative.


4… Bf7 5.b8=Q h1=Q


The crowd quickly gathered a couple of Queens from a nearby board,
interrupting that game which was nowhere near as exciting as this one. By now,
everyone – chess players or amateurs alike – was deeply enthralled by this game.


6.Bxf7+ Qxf7 7.Qc7+!! …


What a sensational move! It was becoming clear to a lot of people that now we were at
the climax of the contest. Oh, how far away from the truth this impression was.
The young man was clearly shaken by the move; he took his time to analyse all consequences.
A few minutes later his face showed calm and determination;
things were not as bad as they seemed.


7… Qxc7 8.g8Q+ Qd5+


The only move and the simplest one to solve this puzzle in front of this strange old man showing no signs of admitting his folly. The young man relaxed; his friends were starting to poke each other exchanging smirks and giggles. Indifferent to all this, grandpa replied:


9.Kc2!! …


Complete silence! Nobody could understand this strange lack of interest White
showed for his Queen.  Grandpa finally raised his eyes looking around for his lady
while the young man was now sweating profusely now, with a despairing look on his
face in spite of the huge material advantage. With a shaky hand, he replied:


9… Qxg8


Grandpa moved immediately with a candid smile on his face:


10.e4! …



 The crestfallen young man finally realized that checkmate was inevitable.
He had no choice but to resign, shake grandpa’s hand and pay the bet.
Amidst the silence surrounding the table, grandma and grandpa took their coats,
smiled politely toward the bartender and waitress and stepped outside. I quickly gathered
my things and left the coffee shop now full of noisy analysis of the game which had just ended.


Grandma and grandpa were walking happily not far away in front. The autumn
sun was caressing them like a mother does to her favorite children. I approached
them and said with a friendly tone: “Dogorov 1968!”. Grandpa looked into my eyes,
smiled back and replied: “Dogorov of course, but 1969!”. We shook hands and
went in different directions. I continued my walk for a while. It was obvious
grandma and grandpa planned this all along: choose a famous endgame study
from the 60s and wait for the ignorant player to fall into their trap. I was lucky
enough to know that position since my  interests lie in  looking at women, chess,
positions with lots of Queens on the board and the love life of World chess champions.
However everybody else got their lesson that day, in that quiet coffee shop and
with an unexpected teacher who was refusing to live his life far away from the
surrounding World. This new generation had the chance to learn the hard way
how the lack of knowledge makes you pay!





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