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Message to Readers

I know the word count is a bit over, but I'm debating on what pieces to cut. I would really appreciate any advice and ideas, even on the title, since this is my first try at a short story! Lately, I really wanted to put some of my experiences as a chess captain into a character. I will do a review back for whoever leaves a review. :)

The Final Chess Match

June 12, 2021

She jerked awake violently, causing her hand to knock over the chess pieces as the drone of her alarm signaled the start of the last match of the National Vega Chess Championship.

The silver chess board glinted in the sunlight coming through the windows of the Senator Complex in which the championship was held. As Katherine Ashby began to put away her pieces, she noticed her Hologram had continued blasting all through her nap. 

“Is the top player in the Vega Nation nervous to compete against the Nkri who has gone undefeated all 6 rounds of the tournament?” the interviewer’s voice asked Grandmaster Bernard Kresh whose cerulean suit was just as spotless as the couch he was resting on.

“Nervous?” he cocked his head and smiled, showing off his pearly white teeth. 

Katherine slowly inched closer to the Hologram, eyes tight and worried as she waited for her childhood hero to speak.

“Not at all. However, if she manages to win, I’m sure the lower caste girl could use the money to buy a new coat,” the Grandmaster laughed and soon the interviewer followed suit.

Katherine looked down at her government-issued grey coat which was covered in stitches from being resewn so many times and frowned. Although she was usually immune to Glaukos’ remarks, Kresh’s had hit its mark. Promptly shutting down the Hologram, she began walking back to the tournament. 

The expensive perfume which filled the coat hanging room was a pleasant change from the sweat of the Greybuildings, as Nkri’s stores and workplaces were called. 

“So you’ll be Military?” A familiar gravelly voice filled Katherine’s ears as she began hanging her coat. “If it’s not too personal, why did you choose death at 25 over a long honest life?” The piercing black eyes of the tall man stared at her right arm where the insignia of an arrow rested.

“Well, Grandmaster Kresh, I see you’re not one for formalities,” the corners of her lips moved up, forcing a smile. “I can have a productive youth and begin fighting in the front lines at 25. Currently, I am 18, so I have 7 more years of romping left. What’s not to like about that?” 

She longed to add that she didn’t want to work herself to death and have no time for arts like other Nkris. After all, that’s the reason the blue idiots created this working system for. When can you think about revolting when your only thoughts are of sleep?

“Don’t play dumb with me. I know you took this job for chess, but I would respect your endeavors more if you weren’t committing suicide at such a young age. Let's talk more about your true motives after our game,” Kresh stared her down sternly.

“It isn’t a guarantee that I will die. I only hope I will die for such a noble cause as the Vega Nation. I will see you in the hall Grandmaster Kresh. I believe we are late,” she calmly uttered, turning to the stairs. 

Is it the silver chess set? But even though luxury objects aren’t allowed for us, they aren’t very strict about it. Is he trying to get information out of me to execute me? After all, his title is at stake. Maybe he knows my true thoughts about the nation, Katherine’s thoughts chaotically spun as she tried to stop her annotation book from shaking in her hand.

Sitting down, she winced as the chair gave a loud squeak which caused a group of blue-suited participants to glare in her direction and whisper disapprovingly. Grandmaster Kresh was soon seated as well, and he stretched out a hand. Katherine quickly grasped it and gave a firm handshake.

Breathing in deeply, Katherine nervously moved her white center pawn to e4. Her body shook with adrenaline, but she tried to stay still.

If I win, this would prove that the Nkri are just as capable as the Glaukos. I can’t lose, she determined.

Without much thought, Kresh responded with c5, and with these moves, they went into the common Najdorf variation.

Focus, she repeated the word in her head, attempting to ignore any distractions.

The players soon ran out of opening preparation, and Katherine found herself consuming half an hour debating whether she should push one of her edge pawns in an attempt to start pawn storming his king.

She tried to focus on the game, but her mind wandered once again as she realized her opponent was intently staring at the entrance behind her. 
As Katherine decided to navigate her knight to a better square instead, Grandmaster Kresh suddenly stood up and jerked the Nkri off her chair by the arm.

“What-,” Katherine’s protests were cut off.

“Be quiet. Get ready to run,” the grandmaster hissed as he began to walk faster, dragging the young player toward the exit. As soon as he pushed her to the top of the stairs, he immediately let go. 

As Katherine spun around, ready to berate Grandmaster Kresh, she saw him staggering back at the bottom of the set of stairs, hand grasping his cheek as a cerulean uniformed commander advanced toward him. 

“They’re going to arrest you, Ashby!” he shouted as he raised his fist to return the commander’s blow. Katherine stood watching the fight, wondering if she should escape past the fight or run upstairs to the tournament hall.

“I always knew you didn’t belong in the higher class, Bernard,” the commander sneered, grabbing Kresh’s hovering arm and enclosing a handcuff around it. The grandmaster immediately collapsed onto the floor, allowing the uniformed Glaukos to dart up the stairs. 

Katherine turned her back to the ascending commander, preparing to sprint up the stairs. Before she had managed to climb one step, she felt cold steel wrap around her wrist and watched the top of the stairs fade out of view.

Staring at the ceiling which seemed familiarly grey, she stretched a shaking hand toward it. A large, rough hand grabbed hers, sitting his former opponent up in order to present the windowless prison.

After a long pause, he spoke, “I’m sorry. I should’ve known they only let you play as a show of their power if you lost,” Kresh faltered. “Do you honestly think the Senators would have let you come out of that tournament a victor?” 


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1 Comment
  • jasfuller

    Re: Hey Sofia!
    I think if you click on 'see notifications' and then it should say that I have written a peer review. If you click on that, it should take you to it! Hopefully! Let me know if this works - I am still new to this platform, but will help if I can! :)

    5 months ago