A Game of Groans

FOUR-WAY CHESS

Welcome to Four-Way Chess, a game that has probably never been attempted, probably never should be attempted, and might end up catastrophically if one does attempt it. But, nevertheless, four good friends have a go anyway.

Meet Brian – He’s a rather sad little fellow who seems to fail at life and everything in it. He does try, and he tries very hard, in fact, but some men (and women) just weren’t born for success. Or at least, Brian would make one think so.

Meet Albert – He’s a nice guy, and as it turns out, he pities Brian. All he wants is to one day see him succeed in something. It doesn’t matter what. Just anything.

Meet Catherine – Spoilt princess to the maximum, always wants things done her way, always makes a fuss when they aren’t. High-achiever and a top class chess player, rivaled only by Albert – who looks upon her as he would upon a cockroach.

Meet Toby – Indifferent, adventurous and highly susceptible to dares. You can make him sad, jealous or even just angry; he won’t care…as long as he’s not bored.

Game. Set. Match.

“But I want to be red!” Catherine wails, immediately snatching a piece from the box. “But Toby’s already set them up” says Albert, calmly yet with bite. There is a limit to how much he could take…and it’s fast approaching. “It’s fine” Toby’s voice comes from the corner, as he shifts his seat and gives way for Catherine. “You don’t have to, Toby” says Albert.

“No, no, it’s fine”. Catherine gives a wide smile and rubs her hands together. “Let’s go!” she says.

“Wait…Brian hasn’t set up yet” says Albert.

“Oh, hurry up!” At this point, Albert could feel the veins in his neck screaming away.

The board is now set and the game starts rolling. Immediately, Catherine brings a barrage upon Brian, decimating a quarter of his troops within the first several moves. Albert starts to feel uneasy and shifts his troops in between the two, halting Catherine’s attacks. She flinches as he decapitates her bishops, “Oh, you’re cheating! I use my guys to attack him and then you come in” she pokes. “You mean…I’m handing your ass to you?” Albert replies, with a slight grin.

Before long, Brian’s own troops start to attack Albert’s forces. “Ah, snap” goes Albert, “you got me again”, as piece after piece falls to Brian’s army. Albert could see his smile widening, and so widens his own.

Both Catherine and Albert couldn’t help but notice that although Toby wasn’t taking many losses, he wasn’t doing any killing either. “Toby” says Albert.

“Yes?”

“Why aren’t you doing anything?”

“Why aren’t you doing anything to me?” Toby replies.

The answer – because Albert and Catherine have been too busy killing each other. In fact, throughout the entire match, Toby has been sending his troops into the middle of the warzone, in perfect range of his enemies, yet he hasn’t claimed a single piece. “T-Toby?” goes Albert again.

“What?”

“Don’t tell me you’re trying to lose, are you?” Silence.

“Well…”

As the war wages further, Albert’s altruism takes its toll. With only a few pieces left, yet Catherine’s army at good strength, he begins to pull back his troops to recover. “Oh my god, B-R-B” Catherine cuts in, “Don’t go anything without me” before running off to the ladies’. The battlefield froze.

“Toby” Albert leans over.

“Yeah?”

“Come on, man…don’t you want to see her burn?” Clearly, Toby’s thinking…

“After all those years of pain and suffering, don’t you just want to slam her down and rub it in where it hurts?” More thinking…

Before he could finish, Catherine waltzes back. “I’m back! Let’s go”.

Albert shoots Toby a glance, “don’t fail on me now!” Toby doesn’t reply, but he sets his eyes straight on the board. It looks like he has made his decision.

With nothing to lose, Albert fires off all his units toward Catherine’s territory, losing many but claiming many. Catherine gives a giggle, “Looks like I’ve won, Ally” she sniggers. “It’s Albert”. However, her smile fades as she notices a new threat to the East. As dawn approaches, the tide of Toby’s blue army rolls in – silent up ‘till now, but ready to make its name known across the entirety of the battlefield.

“No!” Catherine screams as the oncoming tide obliterates the remains of her forces. Albert sits in amazement, his army crippled, his strength waned – but at least there is still hope. And best of all – the look on Catherine’s face as she witnesses the last of her kind being trampled upon by the might of Toby’s aquamarine battalion. “Looks like we’ve won, Cathy” Albert fires, as Catherine stomped the floor and stood up. “This game sucks!” she screams, as she flips the table over, sending hundreds of pieces falling to the floor.

Albert gives Toby a smile, “Job well done”.

“Don’t mention it. Now…back to making flapjacks”. Toby stands up, stretching a little, and walks over to the kitchen. “How did I do?” Brian asks, as if a poodle at Albert’s feet. “Splendidly”.

“I did crap, didn’t I?” he straightened.

“Er…yes”.

“Every single goddamn time…” Brian mutters as he makes his exit.

“I think you ought to be a little straighter with him these days. He’s not a kid anymore, you know?” Toby comments, still preparing his flapjacks.

“Yeah, I know…” Albert concedes, “But he’s just a bit fragile”.

“Not as fragile as you think. Give him a chance. Let go of the brakes a little.”

“Alright” Albert smiles, as they both proceed to enjoy a rather scrumptious batch of flapjacks.

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