George W. Bush always played white. He felt comfortable with white. The board made sense to him that way. He liked the king on the right. The right was far better than the left. And so he stuck with white. And he made his first move. It was always the same move: e2-e4. for those of you who do not understand chess notation, that was George’s king pawn moved two squares forward. It was a classic move, a chess opening done over and over again by millions of chess players today and yesterday. It was safe. And George always opened with it. He told himself to do what felt comfortable, do it again and again, and stick with it. Even when it doesn’t work. The problem was George had not won a chess game against this opponent in the last four games. This was the fifth game, and George was down 4-0. But that is OK. George felt comfortable. George felt secure. The chess board was familiar, though a field of play he was losing, he did not care. The king pawn two squares. Over and over again.
George’s opponents had an odor to him. There was a doctor standing to his opponent’s side with a cart containing a medical device that had tubes coming out and going in, two of which were attached to George’s opponent. George’s opponent had long black and grey hair with a long beard. A long face, a tall man, who sat in a slumped position. George did not like this man. But he was playing chess with him. He had to. It was his obligation, so he felt. The bearded man looked down at the chess board, George wiped his nose because the stench from the bearded man was distinct. It almost smelled like asparagus, or the smell of urine after you ate asparagus. The bearded man had large eyes that seemed to glisten from too much tear. The man was not crying. He just had watery eyes, thought George. George was hoping the man would be crying. He liked to think of his enemy as being in tears. George would not cry. He knew this because he met with an Iraq War widow the other day at the White House.
As he sat there facing the bearded man who was studying the chess board, George tried to remember the Iraq War widow he met yesterday at the White House. She was young. And she brought photos of her two children, a son, 11, and a daughter, 7. The widow had long blond hair pulled back in a pony tail. She was in her thirties, George thought, and she was thin. Actually, she was quite cute. And the photos showed two beautiful kids, both with blond hair and big eyes. And of course the widow had to bring a photo of her husband, the one who died in Iraq three months ago nine miles south of Baghdad on a dusty road, a bullet to the brain. Unusual. A bullet from a sniper rather than a roadside bomb. The problem with the widow was that she was all emotional and came with a political agenda. George always risked this when he met with widows. They come to talk, he talks, he tries to make them feel better, and most do not bring up politics. But this one, though very nice and sweet, begged him to bring the troops home from Iraq. She asked her President nicely, George remembered, and she was crying at the time. She held the photos of her children and starting whispering to herself how it was hard to imagine that she would now have to raise the children without their father. She was babbling to herself about how she did not know what to tell her children. What was the death about? What was it for? Thankfully George did not have to address these questions because they were not really asked directly to him. The widow was more talking to herself, working it out with her herself. A personal thing she was going through. It was all very sad. But the thing that George noticed is that he did not cry. Oh at another time in his life he would have cried. Maybe even if he saw this scene in a movie he would cry. But not in the White House. In the White House, emotion was for sissies. He had heard that said by some teachers of acting. But this was not acting. This was not fiction. This was for real.
George’s thoughts of the war widow were suddenly terminated when the bearded man moved his black queen bishop pawn two squares forward.
What the hell? Every game the bearded man opened with something different. And George had never seen this before. Well, then again, George was not a chess player. So maybe this was a popular black opening. But heck, beardy keeps changing his style.
“I heard that you were dead,” said President George Bush.
“The game has just started. There is no reason to think I will lose,” said Osama Bin Laden as he adjusted himself in the chair and moved the tubes that came from the dialysis machine that was being operated by Osama’s doctor.
“What is that?” asked Bush.
“It is called the Sicilian Defense. Very effective,” said Osama.
“If it so effective, how come you never used it before?” asked Bush.
“Oh, but I have used it. Many times. Not with you, though,” said Osama.
“Sicilian? That’s an Italian thing,” said Bush.
“I suspect the Sicilians do not consider themselves Italian. The world is filled with human beings trying to identify with a clan, trying to separate themselves from other clans. It makes them feel special. To us, Sicilians are Italian. To Sicilians, they are Sicilian,” said Osama.
“Well, you think that silly Sicilian pawn is going to bother me? I control the center. I control the center,” said Bush.
“And so you do. And so you do,” said Osama.
“How come you never move your king pawn on the open? How come? It’s standard. It’s solid. It’s tested,” said Bush.
“It’s boring and everyone does it. Chess is a game to be re-discovered with each new game played. Should never go with what worked yesterday. Never,” said Osama.
“But it is the center. You avoid the center. You avoid it,” said Bush.
“Yes. I avoid the center. I do not need the center to win. The center is for suckers, no disrespect intended,” said Osama.
“This is why I will win, Mr. Osama Bin Laden,” said Bush.
“Yes. It is good you think that. Keep doing what you are doing with the center, and believe firmly that you will win. This is good,” said Osama.
“You’re damn straight it is good,” said Bush.
“Yes. It is good. It does not matter that I have won the first four games. I think you are right to be firm with your approach to the game. It is a good approach. In fact, it is a sign of weakness that I keep changing my chess strategy. It clearly represents that nothing is working, that I lack confidence,” said Osama.
Bush does not know if Bin Laden was being sarcastic. But it did not matter. Bush believed in his strategy. He looked down at his board and tried to figure his next move. Hey, why try to figure it. he will do what he always does. So Bush moved his queen pawn one space, proetecting his king pawn. Tried and true. Solid.
Bush smiled. Osama smiled. Everyone was happy.