Chapman, as everyone knows, was quite a chess-player in his time. At one time while he and Keats were sharing an apartment it was not unusual for one or two of Chapman’s friends to drop round for a game, or to discuss the relative merits of Ruy Lopez and the Ponziani Opening. Keats put up with this in fairly good humour, declining to join in their discussions giving, as his excuse, that he knew little of their sport. Instead he would bury his nose in a good book, or listen to his iPod with a faint smile on his face.
The day came, however, when Chapman was called upon by his local Chess Society to organise on their behalf the County Championship, the winner of which would go on to the National Tournament. Chapman booked the facilities of a rather sedate hotel in their locality for an entire weekend.
The weekend arrived and so did the players, their friends, and families, and all but took over the entire hotel. What other guests there were kept rather a low profile, whilst the championship-goers socialised with mutual bonhomie, occupying the hotel lounge during the day, and the restaurant and bar till all hours. Not only were the tables in the lounge the scene of championship games, but also informal games sprung from nowhere on the dining tables in the restaurant, the pool table and upturned barrels in the public bar, and the leather-trimmed tables in the cocktail lounge, with salt-pots and half-pint glasses substituting for missing rooks, pawns, and queens where boards were (so to speak) a man short. The hotel staff seemed a little overwhelmed by all this, but managed to cope throughout Friday evening and all of Saturday.
When Sunday came it was a different matter. Chapman, having assumed that everyone would be taking a lie-in and being an early-morning person himself, decided to take a brisk country walk before breakfast. It was therefore in his absence that a wee bit of a stramash took place back at the hotel.
Keats came down from the room that he had been sharing with Chapman, to find an agitated under-manager hovering at the foot of the stairs.
“Oh Mr Keats,” said this individual. “Please help us out here. We’re short-handed and we simply can’t keep order among Mr Chapman’s friends!”
Indeed there was a deal of noise in the place, and Keats suffered himself to be led to the hotel lobby, where the whole compliment of championship-goers, families and friends had packed themselves in. To his eyes it seemed like pandemonium. There were chess games in progress on every horizontal surface, including the floor. Someone, noticing the pattern of large black-and-white squares which decorated the floor, had organised all the children into two opposing teams of black and white, and was playing an oversize game using them as pieces – they were shrieking with delight and dodging in and out of all the other people. Toes were trodden on, accusations were being made (and not sotto voce at that!), some adult games were getting ugly and anyone who tried to intervene and pacify the contestants was getting dragged into the barney.
Wringing his hands, the under-manager begged for Keats’ help.
When Chapman arrived back from his walk an astonishing spectacle greeted his eyes. There was Keats manhandling the people from the championship, and ejecting them bodily, one-by-one, from the hotel with all the skill of a third dan at judo.
“What in the world do you think you’re doing?” asked Chapman.
“Pulling your chess nuts out of the foyer,” replied Keats.
Chapman had to admit defeat.
ANOTHER BRAIN TEASER
Well, sort of. I wonder if anyone can tell me who the person on the extreme left of this photograph is?
<- i.e. this side.