Title: Game of the Century
Rating: PG, barely.
Summary: Tezuka and Kyuushuu and chess
Warnings: This wasn't intended to be weird, but it seems to have ended up that way.
Disclaimer: I neither own nor profit from the Prince of Tennis. Others: at fic's end
A/N: The subject matter alone outs me as a geek. I'm cool with that. XD
i. opening 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. d4 O-O 5. Bf4 d5
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
Tezuka Kunimitsu exists in a world of straight lines, sharp planes, precise and mathematical angles that point but one way: up. Up in a continual pursuit of perfection, of criss-crossed, impeccably gridded racket strings.
Fuji Syusuke has no straight lines. He is curves and twists, a looping Mobius strip that leads a merry chase back to the point of origin no matter where one starts and only ever shows a single edge.
Left hand. Right hand. Mirror images that are not identical. Enantiomers. Inui has filled more than one notebook with theories and postulates and proofs showing how Tezuka is matter and Fuji is antimatter, fully documented in endless technobabble worthy of B-movie science fiction or rocket propulsion. So convincing is his data that others begin to believe it, almost fearful of what could happen if they would ever play.
"Let's play," Tezuka says. He has little belief in superstitions fueled by Inui's wild speculations. I want to see the real you.
Fuji laughs, for Tezuka is always direct like this, and doesn't answer. Antimatter has its own agenda and despite the fact that it exists because matter exists, it will not conform to the will of matter.
Then one day matter shatters on the court, breaking wide open with its destruction the Lomonosov-Lavoisier law and leaving it hemorrhaging on the green surface.
ii. gambit? 6. Qb3 dxc4 7. Qxc4 c6 8. e4 Nbd7 9. Rd1 Nb6 10. Qc3 Bg4
It isn't known to very many people that Tezuka has hobbies other than tennis and mountain climbing. Tezuka, after all, is private and not given to talking about himself. One of these is chess, a hobby that one might associate more with the likes of Inui, but Tezuka finds it relaxing. He will never be a grandmaster, or more than an entertaining diversion to advanced players, but like everything he does Tezuka always fully plays to the extent of his ability.
It is a rainy chilly Sunday, dreary and gray and all too happy to drive everyone indoors. Tennis and hiking prevented, Tezuka sighs and rubs his shoulder; it is healing but it aches, as it often does in weather like this now. A long bath later sounds appealing, he thinks as he turns on the computer.
Net chess is a fairly recent discovery of his, here in Kyuushuu and needing distraction from pain in his shoulder and prohibition from tennis. There's something alluring about the anonymity and the global challenge. He has roughly as many wins as losses to his credit, but every loss has provided insight into making his game better. The server he plays on is worldwide and predominantly English language, though he has played a few 3AM games in Norwegian (with the help of an online translator that turned out not to be much help at all; he really didn't mean to proposition anyone), which adds to the challenge. Chess really does not require language, only moves and instincts and foresight. In many ways, it is not that different from tennis, it could even be tennis viewed through another lens.
His username is uncreative, a simple 'TK' denoting his presence on the server. There are a few regulars haunting around the chatroom, perhaps either Scissorhands or LumberLady would be up for a game.
The message chime sounds, indicating someone has invited him to a game. Bobby, the screenname is as simple as his. "Want to play?" the text asks.
"Sure," Tezuka types in return.
iii. middlegame 11. Bg5 Na4 12. Qa3 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Nxe4 14. Bxe7 Qb6 15. Bc4 Nxc3 16. Bc5 Rfe8+
Tezuka stares at the screen, the ruins of the fiercest game he has ever played strewn on the checkered squares. He has but five pieces on the board, and his defeat is absolute. His king is mated, pinned beneath a rook and skewered by a knight no matter which square he chooses. There is no symbolic way to topple the king piece in net chess, but a mere 'thank you' for the game seems empty, hollow, and the faceless soul on the other end deserves more acclaim than that. He has never seen someone play chess this way, fierce and full of life, crafty and eccentric and so brilliant it makes him ache.
The little counter next to Bobby's name adds the win to his total. One win, zero losses. This game, played with Tezuka, is his first and only game on the net chess server.
"Thanks." The word pops up in the room's chat box, black on a field of white. "I had fun."
"Yeah." Tezuka's fingers are inarticulate, still clumsy from the heady intoxication of the game. "Maybe we can play again sometime."
There is a pause, then a wide-grinning emoticon pops up. "Maybe...."
Tezuka wants to type more, to ask him where he learned how to play that way, unconventional and aggressive, but when he looks back at the screen, Bobby has signed off. There is a private message flashing and Tezuka clicks it.
"Il demeura un instant immobile. Il ne cria pas. Il tomba doucement comme tombe un arbre. Ca ne fit même pas de bruit, à cause du sable."
It is French. Tezuka does not speak French. Babelfish is open before he has time to think, but his frantic back and forth translating attempts yield only strange gibberish. "That remained when one standing still. As for that you did not shout. That the wood went down calmly as falling. As for California the noise which was not made because of the sand."
iv. counter 17. Ke1 Be6 18. Bxb6 Bxc4+ 19. Kg1 Ne2+ 20. Kf1 Nxd4+ 21. Kg1 Ne2+ 22. Kf1 Nc3+ 23. Kg1 axb6 24. Qb4 Ra4 25. Qxb6 Nxd1 26. h3 Rxa2 27. Kh2 Nxf2 28. Re1 Rxe1
It is more than a week later, and though Tezuka has been on the server every day, Bobby has not reappeared. Tezuka has saved the game, watching it time and again, seeing the way each move unfolds into the next. It is the bishop at seventeen he cannot get over. It should have been knight to b5 to threaten the white queen, which would have left his bishop to take the pawn and check the king. Instead, Bobby threw the queen at him, tossed down the gauntlet and said 'I can win without her...can you?' It is the perfect counter, the perfect undoing of a game that had thusfar been unconventional (he had not seen the knight to a4 either, leaving both Tezuka's queen and knight ripe for the picking) but without the markings of something special. There is a strange emptiness when he logs in, looking for that name and finding nothing. Tezuka is not always good with words, but another might call it 'regret'; all Tezuka knows is the phantom taste left behind in his mouth, like autumn dying in frost's arms, of something special that will never come again.
He goes to physical therapy daily and it hurts, Tezuka thinks his teeth will have worn to nubs from gritting them through stiffness and pain, but pain is the price of mobility and power and tennis. "It seems like all you do is come to therapy, Tezuka-kun." The aide is a woman today, with a pixie haircut and short fingernails. She is deceptively fragile but strong, able to provide more than enough resistance for his exercises. "Do you have any other hobbies?"
Tezuka grunts through three more repetitions before answering. "I sometimes play chess on the net." Forty-eight. Forty-nine.
"Oh, really? I started reading a book on chess. I don't understand much of it, but my boyfriend likes it. It's sort of hard, they didn't have a Japanese version of it and my English reading level is still low. I think it's called 'Profile of a Prodigy' or something?"
That sounds all too familiar. Tezuka knows at least one prodigy. He realizes he hasn't sent the team any mail recently, and he feels a little ashamed. Fifty-two. Fifty-three. "Who's it about?"
"An American who was the world chess champion about thirty years ago. His name was Bobby Fischer."
Tezuka stops counting at fifty-six and runs out of the room. Later he will remember his manners and apologize, but not now.
As he should have done a week ago, he googles the French phrase, feeling like a fool for having only thought in terms of translation. Then, he googles 17. Ke1 Be6.
v. endgame 29. Qd8+ Bf8 30. Nxe1 Bd5 31. Nf3 Ne4 32. Qb8 b5 33. h4 h5 34. Ne5 Kg7 35. Kg1 Ng3+ 36. Kf1 Bc5+ 37. Ke1 Bb4+ 38. Kd1 Bb3+ 39. Kc1 Ne2+ 40. Kb1 Nc3+
It is rainy in Tokyo, the storm coming out of nowhere and drenching the scattering crowds. Fuji is practicing to be a doctor, performing a bit of minor surgery on his turntable in the form of a new needle. Some audiophiles will argue that the compact disc is a much truer, clearer rendition of music as it is meant to be heard, but Fuji disagrees. The archaic scratch of the needle over vinyl lends something that can never be found in a digital recording: character. The faint hiss and pop is how the music was recorded and hearkens back to the days of gin and jazz, of swing dancing and clarinet leads and snare drums played with brushes. To take that out would remove the life from the music, he thinks. Needle replaced, he pulls a sixty year old record off his shelf, it's the one he always tests the system with when he's added something new. "Moonlight Serenade" soon fills the room in Glenn Miller's original orchestration.
The doorbell rings; he is the only one at home, so Fuji jogs down the stairs to answer it. He wonders who could be crazy enough to be out in this weather.
When Fuji swings the door open, it is Tezuka (Tezuka? Isn't he in Kyuushuu?) on the stoop, hair wet and plastered against his head, glasses fogged up, breath making chilled clouds every time he exhales. He looks to have run the entire way from the train station. "This is a surprise, Tezuka..." Fuji begins.
"Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé." Tezuka steps inside, dripping on the landing, and breathes for Fuji, his mouth gradually becoming warmer. With his foot, he shuts the door behind them.
You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.
vi. checkmate 41. Kc1 Rc2# 42. 0-1
"I will be back for Nationals. It is a promise I made."
"Aa. Everyone misses you, but they are fighting hard."
"I know. When I come back, let's play." I want to see more of the real you.
Fuji laughs and doesn't answer. But Tezuka has finally learned that this means maybe....
The chess is a complete rendition of the Donald Byrne and Bobby Fischer match of 10/17/1956 at the Rosenwald Memorial tournament. Fischer was only 13 when he played this brilliant match that was termed "The Game of the Century," with the signature move being the bishop to e6 (offering up the queen) at move 17. Annotated version of the match, which was heavily used in influencing and creating the fic, is from the World Chess Academy website.
The French quotations are from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book, Le Petit Prince, taken from this site which offers parallel translations in German, English, and the original French text. The first translates as follows: He remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out. He fell as gently as a tree falls. There was not even any sound, because of the sand.