The other night, my youngest son and I found ourselves with some time alone at the house. With my knee the way it is, playing basketball or soccer is not possible, so I suggested we watch a show or play some Mario or something.

I left him to set things up while I took care of some quick chores.

When I came back, he’d set up a chess board on the ottoman.

“Really?” I said, sitting down on the couch with a smile. “You wanna go?”

“You’re going down!” he said.

The board was turned so that I had the white pieces. “Are you sure? You’re even letting me go first?”

“It won’t matter.”

…and we settled down to Chess the way it was meant to be played, with jokes and trash-talking and a whole lot of tension. The rest of the family came home halfway through the game.

“No way,” his brother said. “Who’s winning?”

“It’s really close,” I said. “It could go either way.”

“I’m crushing him,” my opponent said.

Then he made his biggest mistake of the game. It wasn’t an obvious mistake, but it guaranteed I’d take one of his rooks in the next three moves.

“Are you sure about that?” I asked.

“Oh yeah!”

“Take another look,” I suggested. “You can take it back if you want to.”

“I’m good.”

His brother jumped on the bandwagon. “You’re going down, Daddy! You’re going down!”

“Perhaps not,” I said, moving a pawn.

The moves progressed. I took the rook, which exposed his bishop, which would eventually force his king into a very bad situation.

“Oh no,” he groaned as he figured out the pattern that was developing.

“Can I help?” his brother said.

Usually, we have a strict “no-kibitzing” rule during chess. You can watch and spectate, but you can’t suggest moves. In this case, though, I figured there was no point to that. “Sure,” I said.

The two of them huddled together over the board, strategizing against me. They stretched the game out a lot longer than I thought possible, but in the end, I won.

“Good game,” I said. “That was really close. . . up until that one move.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I know which one that was.”

“Next time,” I said.

“You know it!”

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