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The Great Game

by eliaholmes


I round the corner of the marble corridor, my footsteps echoing in the silence. My heart pounds as my eyes lock on the great oaken doors looming ahead, from what could only be the torturous battle between anxiety and exhilaration.

I freeze before the doors, and glance down at the black and white checkered tiles below my feet. I cannot let my emotions deter me from the profound concentration I need to face what is beyond those doors, and nothing can better pull me into my cogitative state than what I do best: studying patterns.

As tiles of black and white consume my vision, my breathing softens until it is inaudible, even to myself. I close my eyes, and the plans, tactics, and strategies I studied for fourteen of the seventeen years of my life return to mind.

I open my eyes to see two men in tuxedos staring at me disapprovingly. I was so consumed by my thoughts I failed to notice them. They move reluctantly to open the doors for me, but I lunge forward, grabbing both door handles. I have no tolerance for fake courtesy. I would much rather open my own doors than to have people open doors for me solely due to my so-called eminence.

I pull on the brass handles, needing to use my full body weight. I am so dedicated to developing my mental strength I am left with little time to exercise. The doors finally give, exposing me to the arena. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a few women in the audience stand at the sight of me. Soft calls to the Obsidian Princess reach my ears, but before I can formulate a response to this honorable nickname, they are drowned out by the low murmurs of deep, questioning voices. I decide to keep my eyes focused straight ahead, ignoring admirers and critics alike, as I usually do. Many crack under the pressures of competition and the public opinion, but not I.

I do not fight for fame or money; I fight for my love of the game. Every trace of self-doubt evaporates as I arrive before the square space that serves as the battlefield, which has been my home since the first time I ever played at war. It is the sole place I can truly utilize my mind to its full potential. I glance at the clock to my right. I am precisely fifteen minutes early, as usual.

My troops are already in position, awaiting my command. I examine each one of them, from the foot soldiers standing as the first line of defense, to the knights’ sturdy horses, to my two castles positioned on the left and right edges. And most importantly, my king and queen, inspiring courage with their mere presence, hidden behind the troops sworn to defend them. No words need to be exchanged for them to know how dedicated I am to victory.

I am taken out of my thoughts when the oaken doors on the opposite end of the arena fly open. In strides my opponent, a mere four minutes before we are supposed to begin. As much as I hate finery, there is no denying he is gallant from head to toe. He is armored in a suit as pure as snow, held together with clasps as brilliant as the soft waves of beaten gold that fall from his head. His sapphire eyes dance with light as he throws his head back in laughter, exchanging whispers with his advisors that trot closely behind him, like dogs following their master.

It seems every man in the audience rises to greet him, loud calls to the Golden Prince echoing through the arena. I smother the temptation to roll my eyes and instead remain motionless behind my troops, failing to return to my analytical state of mind. He is clearly the crowd's favorite, and with good reason. His presence is warmer than the sun on a summer afternoon, surrounded by allies and flashing smiles at the audience. My presence is colder than the darkest nights of winter, with my sleek braid lost in the darkness of my obsidian-black suit, waving away all attempts of interaction.

He finally remembers the reason we are here and sweeps his eyes over his troops. He glances at me and meets my stare with ease, flashing me a pearly smile before turning back to his comrades. This exchange is oddly kind; he must be trying to get in my head. This is as much a battle of the mind as it is a battle on the field. It is foolish of him to think he can outplay me, a tactical mastermind who remains undefeated thus far.

The clock strikes twelve, and the room grows quiet. Battle is about to begin. My opponent’s advisors join the audience, and we are alone; The Golden Prince and the Obsidian Princess, and their armies clad as palely and as darkly as their commanders.

I click the timer, and the seconds start ticking.

He makes the first move. With the flick of a finger, his front soldiers march forward, occupying the center. I direct my front-left soldiers to advance only one pace. The Prince raises a golden eyebrow, only to quickly hide it with a smile. I keep my face as still as stone, but my chest bursts with pride knowing I confused him. I am renowned for my offensive strategies, choosing to fight aggressively even when I am on the defensive. Surely, he spent hours upon hours poring over records of my previous matches where I chose to defend using a strategy the Sicilians once did. This time, however, I chose a conservative defense first played by the Indians. The Prince chose his favored London system, a strategy he is famed for.

The first moves play out the same as usual. Troops being directed to their positions, capturing soldiers for soldiers, defenses slowly being broken down on both sides. As the Prince prepares his troops for a full force charge down the battlefield, I keep mine close, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. My instincts scream at me to counter my offensive opponent with equal amounts of aggression, but I resist the urge; a key component in battle is patience.

As his troops clash head-on with mine, I put into motion the exact trap I envisioned and played out in my mind hundreds of times. My castles are well guarded, and I give silent reassurance to my king and queen standing motionless behind their troops, where I instructed them to remain.

Suddenly, my opponent makes an unexpected move: he exposes his queen to my knights. How could he be so careless? I rack my brain for what his plan could possibly be, seconds ticking by. Do I take this opportunity to capture his queen? That would mean deterring from my plan… I am wasting too much time; I must make another move. I instruct my knights to take his queen prisoner, and she gives herself up with no protest. Why would he do this?

My thoughts are interrupted by him capturing my knight. That was expected; I knew I would lose my knights, but that is a small sacrifice to make in exchange for his queen…

Then, it hits me. He set up a trap for my trap. Somehow, he saw exactly what I was trying to do. He won the battle of the mind.

I try to move out of it. I order what remains of my foot soldiers forward in an attempt to guard my position, but they fall quickly, overtaken by his strong offensive. The remainder of my troops are being encircled, a consequence of such a tight, defensive position. My castles are overtaken, and his troops are advancing dangerously close to my king and queen. All is lost without my king. I must protect him at all costs. My queen is important, but she knows that when her time comes, she needs to give herself for his protection too. After all, a kingdom is no kingdom without a king. My queen’s face shows no sign of fear, as if she was made of stone. She springs forward in a last attempt to shield our king, but I know it is for nothing. The battle is lost.

Part of being a good commander is knowing when to surrender. I analyze my position one last time, desperately racking my brain for a way out. There is none. The thought of losing chokes my heart like an iron fist. I am tempted to fight this battle until the very end, but continuing this fight is not worth watching my queen be captured by mere foot soldiers.

I swallow hard, trying to ease the lump forming in the back of my throat. Tears burn the corners of my eyes, but I forbid them from showing themselves to the outside world. I stare into the Prince’s eyes as I put a hand on my precious king. He begs me not to do it, but I am his war commander, and a king has no power without his army. I hand him over to the Prince, who I suppose will start calling himself the Golden King. He reaches out his hand to shake mine, a pitying smile on his face. A fire burns in me to destroy every one of his troops myself, to wipe the light out of his infuriatingly kind eyes. But I remain poised with grace, and I accept his hand, affirming my surrender.

The bitter taste of loss is oddly motivating. The Prince may have won the battle, but I will win the war. I will fight hundreds more battles until my mind ceases to think, and when I am ready, I swear I will face him again.

People stand and file out of the arena, including the Prince and his celebratory entourage. I remain seated, replaying each move of the battle in my mind. As silence fills the room, I finally build the courage to glance at the aftermath of this disastrous clash. Soldiers stationed haphazardly, knights and bishops imprisoned alike, queen left with no choice but to defend her kingdom herself. And in the center lay my king on his side, alone and helpless, on the black and white checkered board.


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1232 Reviews


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Fri Dec 17, 2021 4:20 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi eliaholmes,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

I have to say I didn't know what to expect here, but in the end I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the story and especially by the way you presented it.

Let's start from the beginning. You have an incredibly detailed writing style. I like the way you build it up and how you use it to create step by step more things and objects but also feelings and emotions in the reader, which then build up around the characters, creating a world all of its own. It seems almost calculating and manic, the way you bring it about. You also create an incredibly readable and great pace for the reader to read at and, most importantly, a great duration for the moments to feel exactly what you should feel in some situations. I was a little confused at the beginning because I thought this was more like a summary, but with each section the accordion pulls apart and more and more folds of wonder emerge. This is definitely a big plus in the story.

Another thing I noticed, though, was the lack of variety in the story. You strike a good balance with the way you write, but the text itself seems quite repetitive from the basic building block and I don't think much needs to be changed there though. If you manage to write a sentence in a different voice or structure maybe every three or four sentences, it always creates a little knot when reading and the reader won't immediately notice that the structure is actually very simple.

In summary, a great piece of writing with a few minor points worthy of improvement.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




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Thu Dec 16, 2021 4:30 pm
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Rosewood wrote a review...



Hey, Rosewood here!!

Before even reading this, I can tell this is going to be good. I absolute adore detail-oriented writing styles!!! Alright, let's get into it...

I round the corner of the marble corridor, my footsteps echoing in the silence. My heart pounds as my eyes lock on the great oaken doors looming ahead, from what could only be the torturous battle between anxiety and exhilaration.


Strong start- I'm hooked!

As tiles of black and white consume my vision, my breathing softens until it is inaudible, even to myself. I close my eyes, and the plans, tactics, and strategies I studied for fourteen of the seventeen years of my life return to mind.


Ugh, I love how the imagery jut slips into my head.

I am precisely fifteen minutes early, as usual.


I don't know why but this just summarizes this character perfectly.

Suddenly, my opponent makes an unexpected move: he exposes his queen to my knights. How could he be so careless? I rack my brain for what his plan could possibly be, seconds ticking by. Do I take this opportunity to capture his queen? That would mean deterring from my plan… I am wasting too much time; I must make another move. I instruct my knights to take his queen prisoner, and she gives herself up with no protest. Why would he do this?

My thoughts are interrupted by him capturing my knight. That was expected; I knew I would lose my knights, but that is a small sacrifice to make in exchange for his queen…

Then, it hits me. He set up a trap for my trap. Somehow, he saw exactly what I was trying to do. He won the battle of the mind.


The way you set this up is amazing-

The thought of losing chokes my heart like an iron fist.


I- just... wow...

And in the center lay my king on his side, alone and helpless, on the black and white checkered board.


Such a wonderful conclusion. I think it really left us feeling... filled, I think that's the right word.

Aywaysss, sorry I couldn't be too much of a help! This was incredibly good and I will be sure to keep an eye out for more of your work in the future.

And as always...

Keep writing!!




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Thu Dec 16, 2021 9:23 am
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Okayy...so this was a very interesting read I think. I don't believe I've read a short on a similar situation before and you do a really good job of constructing a very compelling story here based on something that in real life I personally find rather boring.

Anyway let's get right to it,

I round the corner of the marble corridor, my footsteps echoing in the silence. My heart pounds as my eyes lock on the great oaken doors looming ahead, from what could only be the torturous battle between anxiety and exhilaration.

I freeze before the doors, and glance down at the black and white checkered tiles below my feet. I cannot let my emotions deter me from the profound concentration I need to face what is beyond those doors, and nothing can better pull me into my cogitative state than what I do best: studying patterns.


Oooh, this is an interesting start here. There's not too much going on but you just get this interesting sense of curiosity of some kind here. Our protagonist appears to be someone on the lookout for something, and also someone that pays rather close attention to their surroundings. I'd say a solid start here.

I open my eyes to see two men in tuxedos staring at me disapprovingly. I was so consumed by my thoughts I failed to notice them. They move reluctantly to open the doors for me, but I lunge forward, grabbing both door handles. I have no tolerance for fake courtesy. I would much rather open my own doors than to have people open doors for me solely due to my so-called eminence.

I pull on the brass handles, needing to use my full body weight. I am so dedicated to developing my mental strength I am left with little time to exercise. The doors finally give, exposing me to the arena. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a few women in the audience stand at the sight of me. Soft calls to the Obsidian Princess reach my ears, but before I can formulate a response to this honorable nickname, they are drowned out by the low murmurs of deep, questioning voices. I decide to keep my eyes focused straight ahead, ignoring admirers and critics alike, as I usually do. Many crack under the pressures of competition and the public opinion, but not I.


Ooooh, I love just how much information gets revealed in just opening a door here. You've managed to squeeze in some very neat bits of backstory and a bit more about the personality of this person into that simple action rather well without making it sound too much like an info dump.

My troops are already in position, awaiting my command. I examine each one of them, from the foot soldiers standing as the first line of defense, to the knights’ sturdy horses, to my two castles positioned on the left and right edges. And most importantly, my king and queen, inspiring courage with their mere presence, hidden behind the troops sworn to defend them. No words need to be exchanged for them to know how dedicated I am to victory.

I am taken out of my thoughts when the oaken doors on the opposite end of the arena fly open. In strides my opponent, a mere four minutes before we are supposed to begin. As much as I hate finery, there is no denying he is gallant from head to toe. He is armored in a suit as pure as snow, held together with clasps as brilliant as the soft waves of beaten gold that fall from his head. His sapphire eyes dance with light as he throws his head back in laughter, exchanging whispers with his advisors that trot closely behind him, like dogs following their master.


Okay...well this is certainly a rather elaborate way to get started on what looks to be some kind of recurring test match that occurs between these two individuals who certainly seem rather interesting at first glance.

He finally remembers the reason we are here and sweeps his eyes over his troops. He glances at me and meets my stare with ease, flashing me a pearly smile before turning back to his comrades. This exchange is oddly kind; he must be trying to get in my head. This is as much a battle of the mind as it is a battle on the field. It is foolish of him to think he can outplay me, a tactical mastermind who remains undefeated thus far.

The clock strikes twelve, and the room grows quiet. Battle is about to begin. My opponent’s advisors join the audience, and we are alone; The Golden Prince and the Obsidian Princess, and their armies clad as palely and as darkly as their commanders.

I click the timer, and the seconds start ticking.


Hmm, well this is quite some setup for a chess match. I do love the interesting comparisons you manage to make there with the black and white chess pieces and the clear sense of light and darkness that you have attributed to your two characters here. It makes for a very interesting setup here.

He makes the first move. With the flick of a finger, his front soldiers march forward, occupying the center. I direct my front-left soldiers to advance only one pace. The Prince raises a golden eyebrow, only to quickly hide it with a smile. I keep my face as still as stone, but my chest bursts with pride knowing I confused him. I am renowned for my offensive strategies, choosing to fight aggressively even when I am on the defensive. Surely, he spent hours upon hours poring over records of my previous matches where I chose to defend using a strategy the Sicilians once did. This time, however, I chose a conservative defense first played by the Indians. The Prince chose his favored London system, a strategy he is famed for.

The first moves play out the same as usual. Troops being directed to their positions, capturing soldiers for soldiers, defenses slowly being broken down on both sides. As the Prince prepares his troops for a full force charge down the battlefield, I keep mine close, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. My instincts scream at me to counter my offensive opponent with equal amounts of aggression, but I resist the urge; a key component in battle is patience.


Well this description is pretty impressive, with the way that started out I expected it to get a bit old after a while but you've managed to make it sound fresh with each move you describe and so far you've successfully kept my attention so this is going along rather well.

My thoughts are interrupted by him capturing my knight. That was expected; I knew I would lose my knights, but that is a small sacrifice to make in exchange for his queen…

Then, it hits me. He set up a trap for my trap. Somehow, he saw exactly what I was trying to do. He won the battle of the mind.

I try to move out of it. I order what remains of my foot soldiers forward in an attempt to guard my position, but they fall quickly, overtaken by his strong offensive. The remainder of my troops are being encircled, a consequence of such a tight, defensive position. My castles are overtaken, and his troops are advancing dangerously close to my king and queen. All is lost without my king. I must protect him at all costs. My queen is important, but she knows that when her time comes, she needs to give herself for his protection too. After all, a kingdom is no kingdom without a king. My queen’s face shows no sign of fear, as if she was made of stone. She springs forward in a last attempt to shield our king, but I know it is for nothing. The battle is lost.


Well its not exactly the most surprising of twist, its visible from a mile away, but I like how you do attempt to show the thought process of this player as their overconfidence and a lack of patience in the end rushes them to do something they shouldn't have and they now end up in a position where they are surely going to end up losing.

I swallow hard, trying to ease the lump forming in the back of my throat. Tears burn the corners of my eyes, but I forbid them from showing themselves to the outside world. I stare into the Prince’s eyes as I put a hand on my precious king. He begs me not to do it, but I am his war commander, and a king has no power without his army. I hand him over to the Prince, who I suppose will start calling himself the Golden King. He reaches out his hand to shake mine, a pitying smile on his face. A fire burns in me to destroy every one of his troops myself, to wipe the light out of his infuriatingly kind eyes. But I remain poised with grace, and I accept his hand, affirming my surrender.

The bitter taste of loss is oddly motivating. The Prince may have won the battle, but I will win the war. I will fight hundreds more battles until my mind ceases to think, and when I am ready, I swear I will face him again.

People stand and file out of the arena, including the Prince and his celebratory entourage. I remain seated, replaying each move of the battle in my mind. As silence fills the room, I finally build the courage to glance at the aftermath of this disastrous clash. Soldiers stationed haphazardly, knights and bishops imprisoned alike, queen left with no choice but to defend her kingdom herself. And in the center lay my king on his side, alone and helpless, on the black and white checkered board.


Oh well...that ended about as well as it could have I think. Nothing too surprising, just a regular ol' chess match that appears to end on pretty friendly terms, just a solid handshake and its all over, and of course that mental battle within our player here is depicted rather well I think.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, I think this was a surprisingly fun piece. You manage to make this a very vivid and powerful battle fought through the mind and it was just a really nice read I think. :D

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry





Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.
— Groucho Marx