Isoke looked across the chess board over at her opponent. He looked so young, probably around her grandson’s age. His hair was short at the back and on the sides, but long and in twists up top. It was the style the young men wore these days. She quite liked it. Or, at least, she liked that they liked it, that they felt free to wear their hair as they pleased. He had seemed excited when she first sat down. It was a nice change from the looks of confusion that she had encountered at the first few tournaments she attended. Two years in, if a player had not seen her face, they had certainly heard about the old lady who was beating everyone. Her legend was growing.
After winning several local and State competitions, she had finally decided to sign up for nationals. She had applied online, another skill she had acquired in the last two years. It was funny in a way. She had been made redundant because the company felt she was too old to learn anything new. Her manager had told her that they did not believe that Isoke could keep up with the pace of work and the pace of technology. Now here she was, outplaying a man one third of her age, in addition to playing matches online and sharing short videos about her experiences on social media.
When the company let Isoke go, she had stayed in bed for three days. It had been so unexpected. After working for decades, she was just discarded. Her body was accustomed to rising in the morning and getting ready for work. She could no longer follow that pattern. She no longer had a plan and purpose for her days. Her children had begged her to go out, so she finally got dressed and walked to the local park. She had always known that it was there, but she had never truly explored it. In the centre of the park, there was large gazebo and under it were several tables, each hosting two chess players. One man had been packing up. She sat down opposite him.
“Do you play?” he had asked without looking at her.
“No,” she admitted.
“Do you want to play?”
He had been her first chess teacher. She returned everyday following that first day. She discovered a new passion, and what could only be described as an innate gift, under the gazebo.
The young man on the other side of the board was massaging his temples, the clock was ticking and he was clearly struggling to find an escape from Isoke’s trap. She smiled at him. He did not notice, he was somewhere in his mind searching for a solution that he would never find. She, on the other hand, was at peace knowing that she would win the game in two moves. With the points from this game, she would officially earn the title of Grandmaster. The opportunity to start playing chess had come because her colleagues had underestimated her. Now she would never be underestimated again.
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