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  • When I was teenager I used to play chess in nearby library with my friend (when I was not listening to punk rock or hitchhiking). Russia was then Soviet Union and tourism from Soviet Union to Finland was very restricted. Sometimes a strictly supervised busload of people stopped for a while in my hometown and their tour guide was very alert that nobody would not dare to defect during the break.

    Me and my friend were playing chess, we were very bad players. Enthusiastic eaters of chess pieces, though. No sacrifice was big enough. Our plays resembled more crusadian carnage of Jerusalem in 1099 or uncontrolled bloodshed in Iwo Jima in 1945 than any intellectual battle with strategy or tactics. We were so concentrated in eating and slaughtering each other's pawns, rooks, bishops and knights with slurping and deathly sound effects from Alien movie that we didn't notice that we were little by little circled by 50 very interested chess fans from Soviet Union.

    Players from Soviet Union were best of the world in those days. World Champions Anatoli Karpov and Garri Kasparov and thousands of Masters and Grandmasters bubbling under them. Chess was a study subject in many Soviet schools and any haphazard proletarian could beat shit out of any self-confident white-collar western capitalist on the chess board while he was drinking vodka and humming Uralska rajbinushk (Rowan of Ural) at the same time.

    It was my turn to move a piece and I looked around. One hundred eyes (99, one of Russian was with eye patch) were looking intensely what I was going to do. Soviet spectators started to speak to each other vivaciously in Russian about the chaotic situation on the chess board, some of them commented angrily, some of them shrugged their shoulders. Couple of them laughed incredulously and shook their heads. And all of them waited what piece I was going to move.

    I couldn't do a thing. I was petrified. I was paralyzed. Minutes passed, as long as dark months of Nordic winter. Someone harrumphed behind me impatiently. One of Russian spectators started to make tic tac tic tac tic tac sound of chess clock with his tongue.

    I couldn't move my hand until the tour guide had ushered them all out of the door and into the bus and rear lights of the bus had disappeared down the street.

    Nowadays I play chess with my son. Even if I lose from time to time he can never put me in such an awkward cul-de-sac. That moment of 99 eyes was a premonition how Last Judgment must feel when you are waiting for a roll call about your destiny. Yes, and we use chess clock nowadays, too. No problem. Tic tac tic tac.
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