Instrument of God


I approached the chessboard. I examined the table, the woods used in its construction, and the players themselves. I hefted a white rook, after glancing at Kasinski for permission, and getting his nod. Double tournament-weighted ash. The black players looked to be of walnut. And there was an odd custom element to them. Some clear resin had been inset into the top of each piece. A class set-up, not normally owned, or handled, by rank amateurs of the sport. And I knew the sport well.

I had beaten Bent Larson, a grandmaster at the time, while I was still a high school senior. Larsen hated me for that and shamed me in front of my classmates, so I had studied harder and swore never to become a master like him. I learned a better way to play the game. Seldom did I ever win a game against anyone I played, except in my mind. Losing at chess, I discovered, was a masterful psychological weapon to deploy, if carefully wielded.