Oh great, I thought. Why do I always have to get up late? I speedily got dressed and exited my room.
The delicious smell of coffee illuminated my senses as I laid down on my living room couch. As I drifted into a daze, my thoughts wandered towards the previous day's happenings.
“Yes!” I had said to my chess coach, as we drank coffee at a diner. “After all this training, I’ll finally be able to play in a chess tournament!”
“I know! That’s awesome!” he said, “but you must remember, it’s not as easy as you think. You must concentrate and play well.”
“Of course!” I had replied in a discontent tone, “Of course I’ll remember to do those things.” I was rather flustered that he thought I wouldn’t remember to concentrate and try to play well.
“Like I said,” my coach had stated, “it’s not as easy as you think. Over the board playing is much different than playing online.”
I understood what he meant but was totally confident that I could beat anyone. After all, there wasn’t supposed to be very difficult competition at this tournament.
As I awoke from my daze, I fell off the couch. I could feel a large bump forming on my head. Ugh, now I’m going to be late and look like a rhino. Grabbing my chess clock, my notation sheet, and a water bottle I dashed out of my house.
The drive to the city light rail station didn’t take very long, but the train ride to the tournament took over four hours. As the city light rail pulled into the station, I noticed a rather luxurious hotel close by. Picking up my things, I stepped off the trolley and walked towards the building which I hoped was hosting the tournament.
“I thought there weren’t going to be very many people here?” I said to myself as I noticed a large crowd of people entering the hotel. “I bet I’m still the best player here.”
If only I knew…
I walked up the stairs and entered the hotel. The grandeur of the overall appearance amazed me. The walls were decked with radiant, gold filigree, the floor was made up of intricate stone patterns, and the ceiling had large pictures painted on it. In the center of the room there was a large stone fountain bubbling with water.
I started to notice my pulse getting higher. I couldn’t understand why I was getting so nervous! I had prepared plenty, and I was sure I was the best player in my section. I knew I could trust my ability.
I signed my name at the registration booth and then seated myself in the hotel lobby. Since I got to the tournament late, I didn’t have to wait very long for the first round to start. I looked at the pairing sheet and saw my name listed down with my opponent's name next to it. This guy will be super easy, I chuckled to myself.
I seated myself across my opponent. He was a thin Indian kid, maybe 12 years old at the most. I thought, because I was probably about four years older than him, I could beat him easily.
Well, that wasn’t the case. After about one hour into the game, I already felt as though I was losing. I started to pace back and forth during my opponent's turns.
Fortunately for me, he made a huge blunder that gave away his queen. I still had some difficulty converting my advantage but in the end I was able to pull out a win.
I didn’t feel very confident after that game, but I brushed that aside and thought to myself that I was better than anyone in my section.
All the games in round one were finished; round two started. My second opponent was a tall, thin man that looked to be in his late forties.
That game went extremely smoothly. My opponent made blunder after blunder. Our game was the first to conclude after I checkmated him with five queens on the board. With just one round left, I felt very good about my chances. “There’s no chance I can’t get first place now!” I told myself.
After all the games in round two ended there was a break for all the players to get a rest and to get replenished. I didn’t bother resting or getting anything to eat because I was too busy talking to all the professional chess players in the room. I figured, since there was only one round left, I could get something to eat afterward...after my victory.
I finished talking to one of the players and sat down on a chair in the lobby. I had gotten a lot of exercise with all that pacing. Next to me sat a little girl who was drawing a picture of a pink horse. Suddenly, her crayon broke in half. Large tears started to pour out of her eyes. I felt bad for her and said, “Broken crayons still color!” She looked at me as though I was a monster, then jumped off her chair and ran away crying. I felt my head. Maybe I did really look like a rhinoceros!
As the arbiter announced round three was starting, I felt adrenaline rush through my body. This was my chance! My first tournament victory!
I looked at the pairing sheet. My opponent was a really low rated, young kid with the same score as me - he had won his first two games. This is gonna be easy! I thought as I seated myself at the board.
“Let the games begin!” The arbiter said. My opponent pressed the clock and our game started.
As the game went on, I felt like I was winning. I had an advantage out of the opening and I figured the game would end shortly. I saw a winning sequence that I thought would end the game on the spot. I calculated all my opponents responses and concluded that I was simply winning.
Suddenly, my opponent stopped to think for a second after my move, and then played a move I didn’t see. “CHECKMATE!” My opponent said.
Nooooo! I thought to myself. How could I have played that move?!
I felt as though I had been hit on top of the head with a sledgehammer. My head hurt. I had lost. My chance of winning the tournament was over. I felt crushed. After all that time of playing good moves, I simply gave it all away with one move. If only I had thought longer. If only I had rested more. If only I had not been so over confident.
On the way home, I realized what I had said only hours earlier, "Broken crayons still color" and knew I had to try again. I had lost, but with God's help, lots of perseverance, and the will to try again I could win. There was a talent in me, a love for chess that I couldn't just let go because something went wrong. That little girl would keep coloring, and I would keep playing chess. And it would be beautiful.
I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Even when you think you might be the greatest at what you do, there still might be people better than you. Pride comes before the fall.