A few weeks ago I was on a train coming back up to Glasgow from my home town (yes, I am English, and yes, I do count it as a failure). For reasons unknown to me to this day, I sat myself across the aisle from two idiotic neds, talking loudly and quite drunkenly about the merits of sectarian violence. They talked for so long and so passionately about how absolutely great it is to smash one of them damn Papists in the face that the Arab girl sat opposite them was forced to move down the train. Naturally, this brought up the next topic of conversation: the comedic potential of suicide bombers. Oh, what wags! What wit! Brilliant, I thought, and settled down to pour some quite astonishing vitriol onto their heads. Silently, of course: I didn’t want to be mistaken for one of those damn Papists.
Even this got old after three hours or so, so out of sheer boredom I got out my laptop and brought up the chess game. (A bit of context: my skill at chess is comparable to your four year old nephew who grabs the knight while you’re playing and runs round the room shouting “A horsey! Neeeeeiiiigh! Neeeeiiiigh!”) One ned remained, the other having a pressing engagement in Carlisle to headbutt a wall or something. He nodded to me. Oh, God, it was awful. I was going to have to have a conversation with this hateful prick. But then, something quite odd happened. He leaned over, takes one look at my screen and said “You’re no’ very good at chess, are ye?”
“Mmf,” I grunted. A plan crystallised in my head. I was going to win. I was going to win this game of chess, and in doing so I was going to show this little racist scumbag, and by proxy every little racist scumbag in the world, who was boss. Despite my inexperience, I was going to prevail through determination and moxie. It was going to be like Rocky IV, but about a million times more pathetic.
A few moves later, he leaned over again and pointed at my screen several times. “Listen, pal. Tha’ rook’s open, your queen’s undefended, tha’ bishop’s gonnae be taken next move [this one mentioned with a certain Protestant glee], your king’s got naewhere tae go, and you’re gonnae be in mate in four moves. You’re fucked.”
My jaw set.I was in a bit of a fix, but it wasn’t that bad, surely? I could prevail. Somehow. Rocky’s always thrown to the mat a couple of times before he pulls through. That’s the point.
Three minutes later, I couldn’t even look at the guy. Everything he had said came to pass. He’d explained the patheticness of my situation with laser precision. This was no normal ned. This was the Uberned. This was Gary Kaspaned.
The train driver announced Motherwell. As he got up to leave, he said to me: “Don’t worry mate. It’s five minutes tae Motherwell, and ten tae Glasgow. You’ve lost nothing. And you’ve learned something: you’re fucking shit at chess.”
I sat there for a bit, and then pressed “New game”. The computer beat me in ten moves.