Did you know chess was invented in India in the 6th century? An even more obscure factoid is that “The Secret Rules of Chess” were invented by one T. Jones in the late 20th century. It was time someone taught our impressionable youth these new rules. That somebody was me.
[The following is a partially true story.]
As a parent, I have long tried to be a role model for my children. I have always striven to teach my daughters fundamental values like integrity, honesty and good sportsmanship – except when it came to chess. Then all bets were off.
When my girls were seven and eight years old, respectively, I taught them the ancient game of chess (something for which they have never forgiven me). Initially, their skills were rudimentary at best. But after a couple years of patient mentoring, they were able to name most of the pieces on a multiple choice quiz.
Eventually, their games improved to the point that, over their vehement protests, I enrolled them in a chess tournament at a local elementary school. Upon arrival, I noticed that most of the kids and their parents had something in common: almost none of them looked like me. That’s because, of the 300 kids in this competition, 95% of them were either Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, or some other Asian demographic. I’d heard about Tiger Moms, but never have I seen so many in one room – the intensity in their eyes was daunting. As for the remaining 5% of kids, they didn’t stand a chance.
My girls were born in China, so on paper at least, they fit the demographics. But that’s as far as the similarity went. Factor in that I was their teacher and they had about as much chance of winning this competition as I had of becoming the next Pope.
The event went on forever, beginning at 8am on a Saturday and ending sometime after I lost consciousness from ennui. Every child played five rounds that day. After one match was over – which in my kids’ cases was usually about nine minutes – contestants were sent back to the cafeteria.
In these long breaks, parents ensured their prodigies devoted every minute to sharpening their skills, practicing feverishly until the next round arrived. I was so bored that after a couple hours, I broke down and challenged some of these youngsters to a game. I don’t want to brag, but there was this one third grader, Jason Kim, who needed 21 moves before he checkmated me. That was my best performance. Most games were over shortly after I located my horse.
This is the scene at the chess tournament I enrolled our girls in when they were in elementary school. What a wonderful way for a parent to kill 10 hours on a Saturday, that is, if you find watching bowling a little too exciting.
No doubt about it, these prepubescent grandmasters were extremely sharp. After a string of five embarrassingly quick defeats, I knew it was time to shake things up a bit. I decided to give these miniature Bobby Fischers a lesson by employing my own Secret Rules of Chess. My next opponent was a nine-year-old named Raza. After a conservative opening, Raza, boldly advanced his bishop into an attack position against my exposed queen.
I contemplated my options, and then, in a maneuver I’m fairly certain Raza did not see coming, I nudged my queen backwards off the board and brought her back onto Raza’s end of the board, putting his king in check. Raza jumped up and exclaimed, “You can’t do that!”, to which I calmly replied, “Apparently you’re not familiar with the Queen’s Revolt.”
He was, of course, more than a little confused, in part because the Queen’s Revolt doesn’t exist (in chess, that is). That’s when I began to weave a tale of how this tactic was first used by the Duke of Hapsburg against the Viscount of Mordovia in 1542.
In game after game, I continued to keep my young foes completely off balance with one surprising technique after another:
The Bad Bishop’s Deceit: My bishop gets to progress diagonally in two directions on the same turn – and can leap over pawns.
The Peasant’s Uprising: This can only be done one time per game – and only by the black chess pieces (because I was playing black). I can select one pawn to become a queen for four consecutive moves.
The Knight’s Alphabet: Here, my knight can do the usual L-shaped trot, followed by a W-shape, and even a Z.
Storming the Castle: One of my favorites. I jettison both of my rooks in unison the length of the board thereby taking out both of my adversary’s rooks and any other playing piece in their path. This is a particularly powerful stratagem but one which should only be attempted if your opponent is very young and incredibly gullible.
This chess cherub would have defeated me in three minutes had I not utilized a daring, obscure strategy – the Wizard’s Distraction: I exclaim, “Look, a scary monster!”, my opponent turns to look, and I steal her bishop.
Of course, with each “secret rule of chess” I made up, I explained in great detail its fake historical origins, dropping the names of plausible sounding kings, earls and baroness, and how, while not recognized in the United States (or China or Pakistan or India or any country where any of these kids’ families were from) they were widely accepted in places like Lichtenstein, Moldova or any obscure European country I was confident they’d never heard of.
I quickly garnered a string of five straight victories. My opponents had no clue how to defeat me. I even trounced the enormously talented seven-year-old Kevin Wong. I must admit, he would have beaten me in seven moves, had I not cleverly resorted to the masterful King Arthur’s Evasion: when he had me in check, I simply advanced my king the entire length of the board, jumping over several of Kevin’s pieces, and took out his rook.
Kevin protested until I patiently explained that this stratagem was first used by King Henry VIII to defeat Napoleon when they met for the World Chess championship in Reykjavik, at the height of the Spanish-American War.
Everything was going along swimmingly, until in the championship round, ten-year-old Raghav Patel employed a daring gambit he had learned from me – the ingenious Sultan’s Escape. He boldly took his king off the board for one turn to avoid being checkmated and then returned it safely to a different part of the board. Raghav was immediately required to forfeit the championship match to his rival, Fatima Shambhani. Apparently, tournament officials weren’t familiar with this move which, as I told Raghav, was first done by a Moghul sheik in the 15th century, during the Irish Potato Famine.
Several parents, who if you ask me, were wired way too tightly, filed a petition to have me permanently banned from any future chess tournaments. I guess some people just have no appreciation for the finer nuances of this ancient game.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
[Author’s disclaimer: To all you parents who by now have concluded I’m a terrible person for duping young, impressionable children with my preposterous moves and tales, let me set the record straight. I won’t deny that I made up all these fake chess moves and ridiculous back stories. But the kids quickly picked up on the fact I was making it all up for entertainment purposes, and they were enthralled and laughed as I demonstrated new ridiculous tactics. And no, Raghav Patel did not try the Sultan’s Escape (though I think he was tempted). And everybody lived happily ever after. – The End.]
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.
Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019
[Author’s note: This post was conceived by and co-written with my dear old pal Steve Fisher, who has been regularly making me laugh since we were 12 years old. Steve left the U.S. in 1991 and since then has been living happily in Prague, Czech Republic. Now retired, Steve mostly spends his time reading The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and The New Yorker, and watching Rachel Maddow, Morning Joe, Meet the Press and Face the Nation. His most frequent thought these days is “Holy shit!”]
Over the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency, he has made countless incredible statements and many bold claims about how great he is, how horrible his detractors are, and all the historic achievements he has made, which, according to him, no other president has accomplished.
According to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker database, in his first two years of office, Trump has made over 6,400 false or misleading claims.
Every day he makes another outrageous pronouncement. It has gotten to the point where it can be extremely hard to know if even he believes the things that he says. So, as a public service, View from the Bleachers has created a Trump Translation Guide to help people understand what our president is REALLY trying to say.
Below is a small sampling of some of President Trump’s recent statements and our best guestimate of what he actually means. We apologize for any correct spellings which may appear to contradict the President’s preferred misspelling.
||“Fact-based objective reporting”
|“Failing New York Times”
||“Winner of 125 Pulitzer Prizes”
|“People are saying”
||“I’m the only one saying this”
|“Lots of people are saying”
||“Virtually everyone is saying the complete opposite”
|“Dirty lying leaker”
||“Unfortunately, not a hoax”
||“Federal law enforcement effort to reveal gravest political corruption and threat to national security in U.S. history”
|“I didn’t know anything about him doing that.”
||“I specifically told him to do that.”
|“He only worked for me for a very short time.”
||“He has a lot of damaging information about me.”
|“He’s been treated terribly by the FBI. He’s very brave, and I have tremendous respect for him.”
||“I hope he won’t flip on me.”
|“I’ve never heard such an insulting question.”
||“Yes, I did do that.”
|“I have no business dealings with Russia.”
||“Russian oligarchs have done money laundering through my properties since the 1980s.”
|“No President has ever been tougher on Russia than I have.”
||“I made Putin say ‘please’ before I agreed to pull all our troops out of Syria.”
|“My father gave me a loan of a million dollars.”
||“My father gave me hundreds of millions of dollars in an illegal tax-evasion scheme.”
|“I know how to build things. I mean, hey, that’s what I do.”
||“I know how to create fraudulent businesses, strip their assets and then declare bankruptcy. I mean, hey, that’s what I do.”
|“I know more than the generals do.”
||“…if the question is, how do you accidentally start a nuclear war.”
|“I have hand-picked an outstanding team [Mattis, Tillerson, McMaster, Sessions, Omarosa…].”
||“On second thought, they’re all losers.”
|“I will drain the swamp.”
||“I will fill the swamp even deeper.”
|“The best people”
||“Unqualified, incapable and corrupt people”
|“A good boy”
||“My inept and unscrupulous son”
|“Murderers, rapists, drug dealers and other really bad hombres”
||“Terrified refugees, mostly families, fleeing from violence, poverty and hunger”
|“Mexico will pay for it.”
||“American taxpayers will pay for it.”
|“North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat.”
||“North Korea is continuing to build up its nuclear arsenal unimpeded.”
|“I am the most presidential person ever to sit in the Oval Office.”
||“I will go on a Tweet storm at 6am from the toilet anytime someone says anything mean about me.”
|“As for the Prince, maybe he did it, maybe he didn’t. Nobody knows. He says he didn’t.”
||“He did it.”
|“It was a very productive meeting.”
||“I talked non-stop for 45 minutes without anyone daring to interrupt me and then got up and left.”
|“I’m, like, an incredibly smart person.”
||“I have no idea what I’m doing.”
|“I’m a technology expert.”
||“I know how to use the button on my desk to order a Coke.”
|“Only I can solve it.”
||“I’ll have Jared take care of it.”
|“I am the greatest president in history – okay maybe second after Lincoln.”
||“Lincoln is the only other president whose name I can remember.”
|“I am the least racist person you’ll ever meet.”
||“So long as you’re white, that is.”
|“We have defeated ISIS.”
||“…if you don’t count the few thousand remaining members of ISIS who are still killing our troops.”
|“I will proudly own the government shutdown. I won’t blame the Democrats.”
||“It’s totally the Democrats’ fault.”
|“We’ve got the strongest economy in history right now.”
||“Only an idiot would believe me.”
|That’s the View from the Bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
||© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019
The older I get, the more time I spend at ologists. You know – the dermatologist, cardiologist, urologist, gastroenterologist, colonoscopologist, and, for reasons I’m still a little fuzzy about, my geologist. Recently, I had to go to the hospital for a minor procedure with one of those ologists.
While getting ready in pre-op, I was instructed to completely disrobe and put on one of those ever-so–flattering, open-in-the-back hospital gowns. To complete my ensemble, they required me to wear a stylish shower cap. Then my wife and the nurse barged in and this photo was taken. Between the nurse’s expression and my garb, this photo looks like an opening for an Onion News piece. So, I posted it on Facebook and solicited suggestions for an appropriately clever or snarky caption.
Below are just a few of the submissions I received, plus some caption ideas of my own.…
Nurse, does this hospital gown make my butt look fat?
Mr. Jones, Your results are in. Congratulations. It’s a boy.
WTF? Is that a… TAIL!!!!???
And that’s when the nurse noticed that Tim’s colonoscopy prep was still working.
Nurse, is it absolutely necessary they shave my pubic region? After all, I’m only here for an initial consultation about a mole on my shoulder. Continue reading “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Surgery” »
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces he’ll erect a southern border wall to protect Canada from all the invading caravans of desperate Americans fleeing the US in search a sane safe haven — and better quality beer.
Ottawa – Today, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a landmark speech to the combined chambers of the Canadian Parliament. He announced his plans to erect a 50-foot-tall wall along the entire length of the USA-Canadian border to keep them safe from the hordes of Americans fleeing the USA. Countless numbers are seeking asylum in Canada, widely considered the last remaining enclave of sanity north of Mexico.
Canadians were initially enraged when the Prime Minister’s address cut into an intermission of the Maple Leafs – Oilers game. Mr. Trudeau began his ten-minute speech in the traditional Canadian manner, by apologizing for interrupting TV coverage of the Zamboni re-surfacing the ice rink.
In his remaining 90 seconds, he was resolute. “In recent months, with all the erratic behavior coming out of the White House in Washington, DC, it has caused tremors throughout our great nation. Our fine people are increasingly fearful that Donald Trump may destroy the world economy, start a nuclear war, or worse yet, attempt to visit Canada.
Canada’s charismatic leader pointed to indisputable evidence of massive caravans trying to breach their perimeter. “They’re filled with lots of scary, dangerous people heading straight for our defenseless southern border. Some really bad people, ya’ know? So, I have no choice but to place the safety and security of our people first.” According to fact checkers, he apologized twenty-three times during his ten-minute presentation.
Trudeau pointed to the latest news stories reporting thousands of Americans in Honda SUVs and Subaru Cross-overs closing in on the Great White North, with several invaders known to be aggressive hand-shakers.
Continue reading “BREAKING NEWS: Canada Announces Plans to Build Southern Border Wall” »
Two famous British Generals from the Revolutionary War were General John Burgoyne and General William Howe. They were going to join forces in the Battle of Saratoga to quash the rebels. Things did not quite work out as planned.
Editor’s Note: VFTB’s crack team of researchers and military historians has uncovered a never-before-seen collection of letters between two heroic British generals who served nobly during the American Revolutionary War: General John Burgoyne and General William Howe. (Yes, they are actual historical figures.)
This sampling of correspondence describes their strategy to defeat the rebellious colonials at the Battle of Saratoga in the fall of 1777.
While some may question the authenticity of these letters, (which I find astonishing), the circumstances around the build-up to this historic battle, which played a pivotal role in turning the tide of the Revolutionary War, are essentially true. – TEJ
17 August 1777
To My Esteemed Comrade, General Howe,
It has been a long, arduous passage from our wilderness encampment in the Canadian territory. But it is with great pride that I share the news of our brilliant victory over those scoundrel rebels of New York colony, as the King’s brave young soldiers clashed with those ruffians and overwhelmed their defenses at Fort Ticonderoga. As the sun sets, the colours of His Majesty King George’s Kingdom of Great Britain wave proudly against the smoke-filled skies.
I remain confident our plan to join forces, yours from the south and mine from the north, on the fertile plains of Saratoga will cut off those groggy, ill-mannered hooligan colonials from their New England brethren, thus ensuring for the two of us the highest honour. Perhaps a knighthood shall be in order, ol’ chum?
Long live our King.
General John Burgoyne
(P.S. my faithful wife Catherine, Duchess of Strathmore, enjoyed your jovial demeanor at our last encounter and asks of your wellbeing.)
31 August 1777
To My Noble Servant of Our King, My Esteemed, General Burgoyne,
It has been nigh to a fortnight since your correspondence informing me of your glorious victory over those vulgar plowboys of New York colony. Alas, I am still tethered to our encampment here along the banks of the Delaware, betwixt the shores of Philadelphia and Camden, seeking provisions and reinforcements. As soon as they arrive, it will be with the swiftest alacrity that I shall decamp and reconnoiter my forces to rendezvous with your fine men on the fields of Saratoga, where, God and the King be willing, we shall prevail and vanquish those pesky rabble-rousers, thus bringing to a rightful conclusion this senseless spillage of tea in our harbors. I shall send word of my impending arrival and look forward to joining forces before the next full moon.
Yours in the Service of our King,
General William Howe
(P.S. That is kind of the fair Duchess Catherine to ask. Pass on to your lovely wife, I am solid of spirits, except for of an odd rash of late. Do say, will the fair duchess’s carriage be following you south with each undoubted triumph?) Continue reading “A Tale of Two Brities” »