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Check mate!

The room fills with the silence of multiple royal courts hustling noiselessly around checkered floors. While queens glide gracefully in every direction and knights gallop forwards, backwards or side-to-side on their ever-noble steeds, kings keep their movements around the floor to a minimum.

Men quietly observe the ongoing dance but this is nothing new. It is, after all, Tuesday night. The night the Noble Knights Chess Club takes over the Barnes and Noble café.

A man in a cowboy hat stands on the sidelines, eyeing the action. After a few moments he approaches the nearest table with a cautious curiosity. A game has just ended and it’s apparent he wants in. The two men at the table—who, like him, look more than a few years past retirement—sense his interest and invite him to play. The man in the cowboy hat is reluctant to accept.

“It’s been awhile,” he admits.

The two men assure him that’s okay and insist he play the winner: the man in a yellow plaid short-sleeved shirt. After a little more cajoling and some gentle coercing, the man in the cowboy hat finally accepts.

He picks up a fallen white and fallen black piece from the preceding battle and holds them behind his back. He shuffles the two pieces before bringing his hands back in front of him, one piece in each fist. The man in the yellow plaid picks the right fist.

“Black,” he says and the game begins.

Time passes—whether a half-hour or an hour and a half, it matters not—with both men playing almost silently. But at one point, it’s clear who the winner is going to be.

“Well, you’ve got me by pieces and you’ve got me by position,” the man in the cowboy hat tells his opponent.

Less than a quarter an hour passes before he graciously stands up and accepts his loss. He shrugs sheepishly and tells the man in the yellow plaid he has to go. The two men shake hands and thank each other for the game.

As the man in the cowboy hat leaves, the man in the yellow plaid looks around the café for his next opponent. His eyes land on the individual sitting right next to his table.

“You want to play?” the man in the yellow plaid asks.

The boy—who is more than a few years away from puberty—looks up from his book and eagerly accepts.

He’d been sitting patiently for nearly half an hour for this very opportunity.

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