Wednesday, December 13

He Is A Street Grandmaster

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From Hobby to Income.

I found this attractive view when I was strolling down the Sudirman street in Jakarta. The cars in the street just turned their headlamps on implying the dusk had turned into night. A middle-aged man spread two chess boards at a sidewalk with a lit candle between them, the candle light was just enough for minimum illumination needed by his stall. He also put a pile of 2 or 3 packs of cigarette near the checkered board as the prize. After putting himself at a convenient position behind the board, the man arranged some chess pieces on each board and ready for any challenge to come. It seemed that he had prepared every chessman to be placed on particular position. There are completely16 chess pieces at the opponent side ranging from Pawns, Knight, Bishop, Rooks, Queen up to the King while at his side there were only : one pawn, a bishop and the king . That was a contrast position which was hoped to become a tempting view and make anyone optimistic in challenging him.

With some packs of cigarette as a bait, his chess vendor tried to attract passers-by to drop by and challenge him. What they need to do to grab those cigarettes was just pay 5,000 rupiah (around half a buck) and beat him in 3 (three) steps of the chess match. He was ready to play simultaneously against 2 contenders with his two chess boards in front of him.

Many people were attracted and tried their luck. All of the challengers would have the same things to do for the match: squat at the opposite side of the chess board, and absorbed down at “the battle field” while they were thinking hard about the strategy to win the game. Some opponents also puffed their smoke to make them relax. I had to agree that it was not easy to win the competition in only 3 steps although the contender had a full-fledged troop with him not to mention for an average chess enthusiast like me.

Two contestants had played but I noticed no one managed to beat the “grand master” so the prizes still stayed there. Every time the looser ended the game he would shift his squatting position to give way to another challenger to act. The more opponents to come the more income he got, and it would be even much better for him if no opponent won the game since he didn’t have to lose the cigarette prizes. The night was getting older. Onlookers still gathered around the chess stall when I saw another curious contestant took his turn, but I had to go home to write this story for you.

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