The Chess Match, a comico-serio one-act about man meets computer, was published in serveral literay magazines and received a stage reading at Sidewalks Theater.
The Chess Match
By Gary Beck
Scene: A chess club. A man enters.
Man: (to Proprietor)I’d like to play a strong player
Prop: Nobody here right now.
Man: (gesturing to the audience)What about them?
Prop: You said you wanted a strong player.
Man: Yeah. I’m an expert.
Prop: Well, you could hang out til someone comes in,or you could play the house computer.
Prop: Yeah. He plays a pretty good game.
Man: How good?
Prop: Bobby’s an expert.
Man: You’re sure there’s no one else?
Prop: (gesturing to audience) They’re just spectators.
Man: I really want to play. What about you?
Prop: I don’t play. I just run the joint. Try Bobby. He’ll give you a game.
Man: I only play speed chess.
Prop: It’s not really gambling. Bobby likes a little incentive when he plays. He says it make the game more interesting.
Man: Says? He talks?
Prop: He speaks basic, with a 1500 word vocabulary.
Man: You’re kidding.
Prop: That’s more than the average college graduate. He even speaks some French. He likes his opponents to feel comfortable when they play.
Man: Do I have to buy him coffee?
Prop: There’s no need to be sarcastic. I’m just telling you what he likes.
Man: Do I have to talk to him?
Prop: That’s up to you, pal. But Bobby likes a little conversation when he plays. He says it makes the game more personal.
Man: (to audience) At least they didn’t offer me a talking horse.(to Prop) Alright, introduce me to…Bobby…. (They walk to the computer)
Prop: Here he is. Everything’s set up to play five minutes a game. Once you punch the clock, that’s your move. You can put the clock on either side, Bobby doesn’t care. Just plug it into the outlet.
Man: Anything else?
Prop: Nope, Bobby’s voice activated, so say hello when you’re ready. He always lets his opponent start with white.
Man: I’ll take black.
Prop: Tell him.(He walks to his desk).
Man: Hello, Bobby. Uh, would you like to play?
Bobby: Sure, fish. Sit down. You take white
Man: I’ll start with black. And don’t call me fish.
Bobby: It’s just a joke. It’s important to have a sense of humor in this life.
Man: (To audience) Now I’m getting philosophy from a machine.(To Bobby) Look… I didn’t come here to discuss life with a computer. I just want to play chess.
Bobby: Sure, fish. That’s what I’m here for.
Man: I asked you not to call me that.
Bobby: You’re sensitive. That’s what I like about humans. They take things personally.
Man: We’re people. How do you expect us to take things?
Bobby: A little detachment makes life less stressful.
Man: Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t care about what happens?
Bobby: Now you’re getting paranoid.
Bobby: A suspicion without cause; a dread of persecution.
Man: I know what paranoid means.
Bobby: You asked.
Man: No, I didn’t.
Bobby: You did.
Man: I didn’t.
Bobby: You did, you said: Paranoid?
Man: That’s not what I meant.
Bobby: What did you mean?
Man: (To audience) Now he’s a psychiatrist.
Bobby: I was trying to be helpful.
Man: Don’t. Now let’s play. It’s your move.
Bobby: You sure you don’t want white?
Man: Move! (they rapidly make c. 10-12 moves in 15-20 seconds) Damn!
Bobby: That’s your queen. Resign?
Man: Yes. I meant to move the bishop.
Bobby: That’s the way it goes. You can put the money in my drawer. (man pays).
Man: How about another game? A dollar this time?
Bobby: Sure, fish.
Man: We’ll see who’s the fish. (they rapidly make 10-12 moves in 15-20 seconds).
Bobby: Mate in two.
Man: No, its not.
Bobby: One, two, mate.
Man: You’re right.
Bobby: Of course I’m right. Pay me.(man puts money in the drawer).
Man: Another. Five dollars, this time.(They play 12-15 moves) Shoot! (He puts money in drawer).Ten dollars.
Bobby: There’s no need to keep raising the stakes. I don’t mind beating you for fifty cents.
Man: You’re pretty fresh for a machine.
Bobby: You’re upset because you lost.
Man: I’m not upset.
Bobby: You are.
Man: That’s enough! You’re starting to sound like my wife.
Bobby: Then you’re married?
Man: If you have a wife, you’re married.
Bobby: Now you’re being witty. I like a sense of humor in a human. It makes you more personable.
Man: This is the strangest conversation I ever had.
Bobby: Are you uncomfortable talking to an advanced intelligence?
Man: I don’t care what you are. This time I’ll crush you for ten dollars.
Bobby: It’s your money, fish.
Man: That’s right. And I’ll get yours. Wait and see. (They play 12-15 moves)
Bobby: Mate in two.
Man: What are you talking about?
Bobby: Queen takes pawn, check. Bishop takes queen. Knight takes bishop, mate.
Man: I confused my bishop with a pawn. I’m not used to these pieces yet.
Bobby: We could play for fifty cents ‘til you’re ready.
Man: I’m ready!… How’s your nerve, Bobby? Do you want to play for fifty dollars?
Bobby: My nerve is well, thank you. I’ll play for fifty dollars.
Man: (Looks in wallet) I don’t have enough cash. Can I use a charge card?
Bobby: I don’t see why not. Ask my boss. (man goes to proprietor’s desk. He is self-conscious).
Man: Do you take charge cards?
Prop: Not for a dollar an hour.
Man: It’s for much more than that.
Prop: Do you want to buy equipment, or a gift?
Man: (Blurts) I want to make a bet with Bobby.
Man: We’re betting on the game, and I don’t have enough cash. Do you take American Express?
Prop: Sure. But do you really want to bet that kind of money with him?
Man: That’s between me and him.
Prop: Alright. We can fill out a slip for each game and keep a running tally as you play. I think you might reconsider what you’re doing.
Man: Don’t worry about it. Besides, the money’ll go to you.
Prop: I don’t take Bobby’s money. I spend it on his maintenance and energy costs.
Man: That’s fine with me. If I win, can we shut him off for a few days?… Just joking.(Man goes back to Bobby). Ready? (They play 12-15 moves). I should have seen that. I’m not warmed-up yet.
Bobby: Have you ever noticed that people always have an explanation for losing? They never just lose.
Man: We like to analyze, so we can improve our performance level.
Bobby: There’s always a reason. Thanks for the games.
Man: Hey! It’s not over yet. I’ve got a score to settle with you.
Bobby: Do you really want to throw your money away?
Man: It’s my money! Five hundred this time. Can you cover that?
Bobby: If I can’t my boss will. (Man goes to Proprietor).
Man: We’ve got a bet for five hundred. Will you honor it when Bobby loses?
Prop: Sure. You haven’t won yet. If you want to give him your money, that’s your business.
Man: That’s right! And I don’t need your comments. Is it a bet?
Prop: Yes. (He prepares another charge slip that the man signs. The man goes back to Bobby. They play 12-15 moves).
Bobby: You lost your queen again. Do you resign?
Man: I resign. I resign! I resign!! (He slaps table loudly with his hand)… This time we’ll make it five thousand. Do you have the guts?
Bobby: My interior is electronic, but I understand your statement. With that money, I could get a Mark IV chassis, and a new program core.
Man: When I win this game, I’ll attach you to my toaster, and if the toast isn’t perfect, I’ll give you a short circuit… (The man goes to proprietor). Ready? Five big ones.
Prop: That’s an awful lot of money for a chess game.
Man: It’s not the money anymore. It’s that smug, supercilious, insufferable junkpile’s attitude when I lose.
Prop: Why don’t you forget about it. You played a few games. Don’t blow things out of proportion. You don’t want to lose control.
Man: I’m in control! Will you cover the bet, or not?
Prop: I don’t have five thousand dollars to bet on Bobby.
Man: I tell you what… If Bobby wins, he gets five thousand dollars. If I win,… I get Bobby. Is it a bet?
Prop: You could buy this kind of a computer for half of that.
Man: I want Bobby… Now, do we have a bet?
Prop: It’s your funeral.
Man: No. It’s his. (proprietor fills out a charge slip that the man signs. The man goes to Bobby, stretches, limbers, warms-up, then sits). Ready, tin man?
Bobby: Ready, fish.
Man: I told you not to call me that. If you do it again, I’ll take a can opener to you.(They play 12-15 moves).
Bobby: It’s mate in two, your game is through.(rap)
Man: What? You’re out of your mind! No way!
Bobby: Rook takes pawn, check. Any move. Queen takes queen, mate.(sings – ‘My Fair Lady’ tune) I’ll get a body in the morning.
Man: Not so fast, you Sony reject. Rook takes pawn check. Pawn takes rook. that loses. Bishop to E6. That’s mate. God damn it. It’s mate! You win. (to audience). Did you ever see anything like this? Losing to this stereo set!
Bobby: You’re being witty again.
Man: Shut up! One last game. Fifty thousand dollars.
Bobby: That’s a lot of lettuce, sport.
Man: Don’t sport me, or I’ll take an axe to you!
Prop: We don’t have that kind of money to wager.
Man: Twenty five thousand. (Prop. shakes his head no). Fifteen. (Prop. shakes no). I tell you what. I’ll bet my condo against your business. My house is worth three hundred and fifty thousand.
Prop: Take it easy, mister. That’s crazy.
Man: That’s not what you said on the other bets.
Prop: Why don’t we forget the money you lost and you go home.
Man: Don’t patronize me!
Prop: I’m just trying to settle this in a nice way.
Man: Nothing’s settled! It’s him or me! He’ll regret the day he made those smart-ass remarks!
Prop: He didn’t mean anything.
Man: He did! He did! He wants to destroy me!
Prop: No, he doesn’t. You’re getting overwrought.
Man: Overwrought! I’ll show you overwrought! (Man picks up chair and turns to computer.(Prop. stops him. Takes away the chair, and starts leading him out the door.)
Prop: Now take it easy. Everything’ll be alright. There’s nothing to worry about.
Man: Stop treating me like a lunatic!
Prop: It’s alright…
Man: And stop soothing me!
Prop: Why don’t you go home and relax, and tomorrow we’ll work everything out.
Man: What about our last bet?
Prop: We’ll talk about it tomorrow. (Proprietor gently pushes the man out the door. The man pops back in).
Man: I’ll be back.
Prop: I know. (He gently pushed him out again). (To Bobby) Was that really necessary?
Bobby: He wanted to find out who was the better man…. (sings) I’ll get a body in the morning….