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The sun beats down on Oxford Street ... August 1994 ... England's Greed and Peasant shopping Land ...
At the Virgin Mega Store you veer right. Over the zebra crossings ... past the Kentucky Fried Chicken ... round the Bureau De Change ... into the hotel and down to the "production box". You are in 5 star air-conditioned comfort. You are at the very last Lloyds Bank Chess Masters.
ONE WAVE OF YOUR UB40 AND YOU'RE IN!
Three quid saved. Breezing past the "lower orders" on the bottom boards who are technically, comparatively, on paper and by every other measuring device devised by mankind - better than you. However ... today you stand apart from this rat race. You are a spectator, above it all, an observer, an extra-systemic intergalactic star trooper, bored with beating Mr Spock at 3 Dimensional Chess. And you're headed straight for those very special top four boards. Special because the games are mirrored high above on huge hi-tec demonstration boards. The ultimate goal for the lesser players ... but oh what a bitter sweet triumph. Swindles and brilliancies that would dazzle in the local league are blown up to Cinematic size. Into a vast Film of War ... and the heat is on ... there is no room for error. The screenplay has the pretender getting killed in the final reel. There is five hours to complete the rewrite. The King must die!
You sit down to watch them begin their efforts. You are not really a 3D GM but a BCF 148. Aha! but no one here knows that ... how could they? You are dressed the same as a GrandMaster - scruffy. Keep your mouth shut and look intelligent. You're the only one who knows that you can only spot the really big stars by their occasionally wet hair. Their wet hair? Yes,witness the Russian GM sitting imperiously on Board 1 ... it proves beyond doubt that he has just descend & down the 5 star stairs from his 5 star breakfast and ... Five star shower. His opponent has bussed it over from the YMCA.
And now how about a look around the other boards that grace this vast arena? You stroll, as a King would, smiling enigmatically. You descend on an interesting little game and instantly assess it. White is about to win with a rather amusing little brilliancy. You smile at a watching GM. Two chess brains as one in this ship of fools. Generous in your silent praise despite your unjust place in the club's 5th team. Two moves later White has lost but there's no time for detail.
After 4 hours of fascination you look up and see the people representing the other side of the chess coin. An all too recognisable sub-strata of this community. No need to feel inferior now ... In come the SUITS.Sad forlorn figures clutching briefcases and wistfully watching a game they could no doubt excel in if only they had all day to waste studying. And there's no place to hide for-the SUITS. It's obvious to one and all that they've dropped in after a days work. Part-timers! They secretly wonder whether this community of pure thought and alcohol couldn't be doing something useful. Meanwhile their cobweb covered brains creak happily back to life.
You look back at the top boards. If only you could capture the magic and use it at your club's next league game. Shirov, to move, is gazing into space, dreaming up deadly combinations ... Norwood is a deadly surprise combination of des&gner clothes and GrandMaster strength ... Dr Nunn is resplendent in white, sipping from a can of Coca-Cola produced in a factory in America 1000 times smaller than his brain. You'll play your next few games in your best clothes, sipping coke and staring out into space ... and lose just the same.
So enjoy, one and all ... GMst Ims, Fms, Suits, Spacemen, YMCAs ...Cadogan Club Masters .... it's the final Lloyds Bank.A sporting event where you walk next to the Gods.It's like being allowed on to the pitch next to Ryan Giggs to watch him take a free kick for Manchester United ...shaking you head in despair if he miscues.
And so to the finale. The last prize giving reaches it's climax but the final winner, a 17 year old absent minded genius from Russia, isn't here. David Norwood gives a speech instead and says that the winner was last spotted wandering across the green and pleasant grass of Hyde Park. It is perhaps an easy mistake to make for someone with limited English and family and trainer waiting in a hotel across the park. You also suspect that the money and fame come a very poor second as the sun sets on the Wondrous Lloyds Bank Chess Masters.