Crispin looked at the board despairingly.
There was nothing he could do. He had played into Franklin’s hands, and it was now just a matter of a few moves before inevitable defeat. He could cede the game now, but that was not Crispin’s way. If his late father had taught him anything, it was never to surrender even when all seems to be lost.
Admittedly Crispin Senior had, perhaps, taken the philosophy a little too far, and the moral certitude over who actually had ‘the right of way’ was arguably a little redundant when cycling towards an articulated lorry.
Crispin Junior was not, however, in mortal peril and he was determined that Franklin would have to earn his victory.
He moved his bishop a solitary space and waited patiently for the endgame to begin.
Franklin smiled. It was a smile bereft of warmth. There was little love lost between two such established competitors.
The queen was moved, as Crispin knew she would be, into the sight lines of her husband’s rival.
Crispin moved his patriarch to safety, but Franklin’s knight moved swiftly into view.
Crispin examined his options. Losing was inevitable, but he could delay the final blow for a few more moves. He glanced up at the clock, and his heart lifted a little.
Crispin sacrificed his rook for the greater good. Franklin continued his assault.
The bishop was the next to lay down his life.
“Check – you may as well give up now.”
“All in good time,” Crispin replied, moving his king to the safety of a last, brave, stronghold of pawns.
Franklin cursed under his breath. This was taking longer than he anticipated. He moved his queen into position, but this time no check was forthcoming.
Crispin responded by moving his remaining knight into danger.
Franklin didn’t need to take the knight, but couldn’t resist imposing further destruction on his opponent.
Crispin played the next few moves by oscillating his king from one space to another as Franklin’s forces surrounded his camp.
The game was nearly up now, but Crispin had drawn out the game for longer than he dared to hope.
Franklin was not magnanimous in victory. He couldn’t help but gloat as he prepared to bring an end to Crispin’s winning run. But Crispin had once last piece to play.
With two more moves required before a definitive victory could be proclaimed, the young nurse appeared.
“Time for your medication Franklin,” she said.
Franklin was aghast.
“Just a few more minutes,” he pleaded.
The nurse was not inhuman, but Franklin had previous when it came to avoiding his pills. And so his appeals fell on deaf ears.
“I believe that makes it a draw,” proposed Crispin, “but you nearly had me that time Franklin.”
An embittered Franklin knocked over the board as he left the room.
Crispin watched his old adversary depart and whispered just loud enough for him to hear.