I started Game 4 of Chess with Charles on Monday, April 23. After weeks of having only one or two adversaries, I suddenly found myself facing many—so many, I feared the game would end before I could write about it.

It looks like I’m going to lose this one, two, I see a theoretical chance for victory but it requires the other side to make two mistakes in a row. The odds of that are highly unlikely. Here’s how the game played out this week.

I launched the new game with White KNight to c3. Alois Geiger, the Huntington Harbour resident who won the last game, moved the Black KNight to c6. I then moved the White pawn to e4.

Seal Beach’s Paul Mangone, perhaps my arch nemesis, came in the same day and moved the black pawn to d5. I moved the White Bishop to c4.

Toby Schamberger of Seal Beach—the first and so far only child to join the game— moved the Black KNight to a5, threatening the White Bishop. I moved the White Bishop back to d3.

Mangone returned the next day to move a Black KNight to f6. I moved a White pawn to b4, threatening the Black Knight at a5.

Then Mike Hashem of Santa Monica came by the office to do some business with one of our sales reps. Hashem joined the game. We exchanged several moves because the rules for Chess with Charles allow one or more exchanges and because Hashem came a fair distance and I didn’t want him to think Seal Beachers to be ungracious hosts. (Given how fast the game has moved, I’m going to change the rules starting with the next game and make it one move at a time for each participant.)

Hashem moved the Black Bishop to b4. I moved the White KNight to b5. Hashem: Black Bishop to c5. White Queen to f3. (That might have been a mistake. The books all say inexperienced players use the queen too soon. However, having lost three games in a row I felt inclined to be aggressive. Better to go down fighting than to go down crawling.)

Hashem: Black pawn to d6. White Queen to g3. Black KNight to h5. White Queen to g4. Black pawn to g6. White Queen to f3. Black Bishop to d4. White Bishop to a3. That would definitely prove to be a mistake—my Bishop was now exposed to an attack. The Hashem/Kelly contest ended there because closing time arrived.

Matt Murphree of Old Town Seal Beach, moved Black KNight to f4. I moved the White Queen to g3.

Mangone returned and moved the Black KNight to d3, placing the White King in check.

My White pawn captured the Black KNight, rescuing my King. Now the bloodletting began. Mangone moved the Black Bishop to d7. White Knight to c3.

Alois Geiger returned and moved the Black Bishop to c3, capturing the White KNight.

White Queen to e3.

Geiger moved the Black Bishop to e4. The White Queen moved to h6.

Mangone moved the Black Queen to f6. He said I could resign any time.

With all due respect, sir, I would rather fail than quit.

I moved my White KNight to f3.

Matt Murphree moved a Black pawn to d5. I castled. My King was now at g1. My Rook was now at f1.

Murphree moved a Black pawn to e4, capturing one of my pawns. I moved a pawn to e4, capturing one of Black’s pawn.

Andres (Andy) Secuban castled for Black, placing the Sun Region’s King at b8 and the Rook at c8. This was a good move and exposed another of my mistakes: I’d been so focused on thwarting a potential castle move on my right that I overlooked the possibility my adversary would castle in the other direction. The odds of my winning the game had just been radically reduced.

I moved the White Rook to b1. Secuban moved the Black Rook to c8. White pawn to d3. Secuban: Black Bishop to g4. White Queen to c1.

Secuban moved the Black Bishop to capture the White KNight. White Bishop to b2. Black Bishop to b2, capturing the White Bishop.

White Queen to b1. Secuban: Black Bishop to g2, capturing a White pawn. White King to g2, capturing the Black Bishop. Secuban: Black Rook to d3, capturing White pawn. White Queen to b5. Black Queen to f3. White King to f1. Black Rook to d1.

White Rook to d1, capturing Black Rook. Secuban: Black Queen to d1, capturing the White Rook and placing the White King in check.

White King to g2. Secuban moved the Black King to g4, once again placing the White King in check. (Theoretically, this could go on forever.) I moved the White King to f1.

Secuban, like Mangone before him, politely suggested I resign. I politely declined. To be fair, both men are quite right: the odds against my winning are astronomical.

I have four pawns, a King and a Queen. Most of my pawns are still in Row 2, far from the action and in no position to protect the King or attack any of Black’s chessmen. My Queen is the only piece that has the power to launch an effective attack, but it is extremely difficult to win a chess game with only one strong piece. Not impossible, but difficult.

Black has also taken casualties. Black has seven pawns, one Rook, one KNight, one Queen and of course the King. You’ll notice, though, that this is the first game since I started that I’ve managed to reduce the ranks of Black’s stronger chessmen. I’ve captured one enemy Rook, one enemy KNight and two enemy Bishops. I may lose, but my defeat will have to be earned.

That said, I can’t force readers and other players to endure an endless series of checks that constantly repeat. At the moment, I could move the King back and fourth between f1 and g2 indefinitely. So if I am unable to escape from the apparently hopeless position I’m in by close of business Thursday, May 3, I’ll resign this game. That means either someone has to accomplish a full blown checkmate against me or I have to inflict some real damage on the other side—or I’ll be forced to do the thing I hate most in all the world: quite.

Your move, Sun Region. Come and get me.

april-201

I lost my third game in a row. Good thing this isn’t baseball or I’d be out. The final blow was delivered by Alois Geiger of Huntington Harbour.

At last report, the Black Bishop at c5 and the White Bishop at e3 were positioned to attack one another. But each Bishop was backed up by a pawn positioned to capture any piece that attacked the pawn’s respective Bishop.

Seal Beach resident Paul Mangone returned Monday, April 16, to move the Black Bishop to f3. Mangone was closing in.

I moved my White Rook to e1 to give my White Bishop extra protection. That may have been a mistake.

Mangone returned on Tuesday, April 17, to capture my White Bishop with his Black Bishop. I considered capturing his Bishop with my pawn. I decided instead to prepare an attack—but I failed to realize I’d run out of time and lost the initiative.

I moved the White Bishop to d3. That, I think, was the fatal mistake. I should have captured that Bishop. It would have created one more place for my King to run to.

Mangone returned to move the Black Queen to g5, placing the White King in check. Mangone told me what move he would make next and, really, it was the only sensible move for Black to make. Even son, I waited until long after he left to make my next move. There was only one legal move available to me besides quitting.

White King to f1.

I expected Mangone to return, but to my surprise he did not. Today,0 Friday, April 20, Alois Geiger of Huntington Harbour returned to make a second move in the game. Remember, the whole premise of Chess with Charles is the Sun Region versus little old me. I waited, hoping against all logic that Geiger would make a mistake that would buy me time.

Of course he made the only sensible move: Black Queen to g2. The move placed my King in check. The only empty squares near my King were under attack by Black chessmen. It was over.

Unfortunately, work related duties called me away before he made the move—so I couldn’t congratulate him in person or take his photograph. Next time, sir, stick around to have your picture taken. You won—you deserve to have your photo printed in the Sun.

Chess With Charles 4 will launch soon. Any suggestions for an opening move?

chess-april-15

Another player has entered the game, complicating matters for both sides. Here’s what happened since the last update:

I had moved my White Bishop to c4. Paul Mangone of Seal Beach, playing on behalf of all you readers, moved his Black pawn to d5, capturing my KNight. Ouch. Worse: he placed the White King in check. I had to stop this attack by any means possible. Only my Queen or one of my pawns was positioned to repel the attack. A Black Bishop was poised to take out whichever chessman I chose to rescue my King.

I moved the White pawn to f4, capturing the Black KNight. If the Black Bishop attacked my pawn, my White Queen would take it. Mangone returned and moved a Black Rook to 38, attacking my White Queen.

The Queen is the most powerful piece on the board. She had to be protected now so she could be used for an attack later. I moved the White Queen to c2.

Then Alois Geiger of Huntington Harbour came into the Sun to play Black. Remember, the whole point of Chess with Charles is Charles against the entire region. So this was fine with me—the more adversaries I have, the better I like it.

Geiger moved the Black KNight to h5. This moved threatened the White Bishop at at f4.

I moved my White Bishop to e3. It is still exposed to attack, but now it is exposed to an attack from the Black Bishop and protected by a White pawn. If Black’s Bishop attacks my Bishop, my pawn takes Black’s Bishop. The reverse is also true, for Black’s Bishop at c5 is protected by a Black pawn.

Mangone then came while I was out. Trouble is, I can for the life of me figure out what move he made. Until I can speak to him, I’m stuck. I have many options, though.

I’d like to capture that Black Bishop at g3. My King has very little protection now and few places to go in the event of an effective attack.

A publisher I used to work for, Vance Caesar, once said the symbols for danger and opportunity are the same. That appears to be the case here.

chess-april-7I was working up the nerve to launch a massive frontal assault that would cost both sides dearly when my arch nemesis Paul Mangone changed the entire game with a single move. He castled—shifting my focus from the center of the board to the side of the board. Problem: most of my pieces are near the center and will have to run a nasty gauntlet to reach the Black King.

Here’s what happened:

Last I left off, I had moved the White Queen to e2. Over the next few days, Mangone and I traded moves, roughly one move a day. Mangone’s next move was Black KNight to e5.

I countered by sending my White Bishop to b5, placing the Black King in check. There was a risk in this move: it was easily countered and would force me to either sacrifice my Bishop at little or no profit—or force me to waste time on protective measures. Still, I did it.

Mangone moved a Black pawn to c6. This protected the Black King and threatened my Bishop.

I could have pulled my Bishop back, but I tend to think Gen. George Patton (or the movie incarnation of Patton) had a point when he advocated constantly advancing. I could have captured a pawn at the cost of a Bishop.

Instead, I moved my White pawn to c3, capturing a Black pawn that had come too close to my side of the board. (A pawn that reaches the far side of the board may be promoted to a higher rank—and is usually promoted to a Queen. The last think you want is the enemy’s most powerful piece on your side of the battlefield.) I assumed my Bishop would be captured at the next move.

Wrong.

Mangone castled. His Black Rook now standing at f8 and his King at g8. The books tell you to castle a soon as possible. Mangone apparently decided to delay the castle until I had committed my chessmen to the center. Smart.

I moved my Bishop to c4, pulling it away from the pawn. Too late I realized that a Black KNight was poised to take that position. Is this a blunder—or an opportunity?

Meanwhile, I must plan on moving my pieces toward the far right corner of the board. There will be casualties, but I have to at least try to win.

chess-april-1It’s too early to pick a winner yet, but we’re approaching the point where some chessmen will be lost.

Black’s next move was made by Paul Mangone of Seal Beach. He moved the Black KNight to f6. This move positioned the Black KNight so it threatened one of my KNights.

I moved my White Bishop to c4 to cover my KNight. If Black captures my KNight, my Bishop captures Black’s KNight. That, I thought, would discourage that particular attack.

Mangone moved a Black pawn to d6.

I castled to the right side of the board. A colleague has told me I criticize too early, but I thought this was a good time. I need to get my Rooks into the game as soon as possible. My King was now at g1 and my Rook was at f1.

Mangone moved a Black pawn to h6. For the life of me, I don’t know why. I know that he knows what he’s doing, but for the life of me I didn’t see the plan behind that particular move.

I moved my White Bishop to f4. Both sides now have several pieces in the center of the board, but I don’t really think either of us has true control Mangone is positioned to attack some of my pieces, but I’m positioned to attack any attackers.

Mangone moved his Black Bishop to g4. The Bishop now threatens my second White KNight. However, the KNight is protected by a White pawn. Even so, I decided to move my White Queen to e2.

At this point, I don’t see any openings I can exploit. Black’s King is exposed and could be attacked from the front—but most moves I see that could launch an attack would cost me my best pieces and give me little in return. My King is presently protected by a fortress of three pawns and a Rook. But most of my powerful pieces are at or near the center of the board—too far away if trouble comes.

If you want to join the game, just come to the Sun office at 216 Main Street, Seal Beach. Anyone who lives or works in the Sun Region—or drops in for a visit, for that matter—can play for Black. It’s all of you against me.

You folks couldn’t possibly be afraid of one small town newspaper man, could you?

Your move, Sun Region