Go for Boroque

by Jon R. Edwards

It began two years ago. It was an early Spring day. Iím sure the birds were out and the sky was blue. But thatís not the point of the story.

One of my co-workers told me about an interesting chess set in a local gift shop named Go for Baroque. Nice items, high prices. You know the routine. Here in the window was a set that depicted the "Town" against "Gown." On the white side were the officers of the University, the President, some cabinet officers and distinguished members of the faculty, with gothic towers for the rooks and students in assorted garb as pawns. Representing black: the local Mayor and his administration. Pedestrians, local characters, and parking meters (the pawns) filled out the set.

With the board, it was "on sale" for $1,200. Needless to say, at that price, I didnít buy it. I did something far worse. I made a move. 1.e4, of course. The clerk behind the counter didnít seem to mind that I had touched the set, and, after a very brief look at the overpriced merchandise, I left. Later that day, my co-worker quizzed me about the set. I gave an honest if somewhat cynical reaction: ďFun set. Very high price. Not the sort of set that I would ever use. Some non-chess player will probably buy it.Ē

Some of you have already figured out what happened next. After all, this is Princeton, New Jersey, home to the oddest assortment of people youíll ever find. Two days later, as I passed by the shop, I noticed in the window that someone had played 1...c5. So I went in and played 2.Nf3. And so it went. Within a few weeks, there was a buzz around town. Well, perhaps only a low hum. That I was playing the University side and that someone else had taken command of the ďTown.Ē

This new approach placed a whole new slant on correspondence chess. In all of my experience, this was the first time that I had ever played a game against a totally unknown opponent. The real surprise, for me at least, was that my opponent was a pretty good player. He knew the Dragon to move 18 and then deviated with a really interesting move that seemed to challenge theory. I asked the store clerk if he knew who was playing black, but it turns out the clerk didnít seem to care enough about the job to pay attention to such details. I thought perhaps that my opponent might have been the clerk himself until I came in one day to discover that he had restored the starting position, and incorrectly at that. Needless to say, I restored the actual position.

By fall, there was scarcely a lunch hour that I didnít go in to see if my opponent had left a move, or to hang around just in case my opponent finally might happen to drop by. Move by move, the game proceeded, and more and more people were coming in to the store see the current position. The clerk didnít seem to mind even though none of the observers or I ever bought anything there.

By late summer, my attack had potential, and I was just about to launch into a rather typical Dragon rook sacrifice when the game suddenly ended.

Iíve had correspondence games in which opponents went silent; Iíve played a few in which my opponents died. I recall one opponent who resigned because the position had become "too complicated." But this was the first time that one of my games ended because a store went bankrupt. Go for Boroque did just that. Right around the 23rd move. So the question is... anyone care to adjudicate a game?