Topher Chapman was the Marco Polo Regional School Chess Club President, which consisted of 14 syllables if you included the definite article. He was also five-time National Chess Association Teen Tournament Regional Champion, but this is significantly less interesting as it contains 21 syllables. This year was Topher’s final year of eligibility, and he was pretty determined to take the State title, which would replace “regional” with “State of New York” (a total of 22 syllables).
Topher’s success was due in part to his unpredictable style. While he largely followed advanced strategies, it was more important that the game end with an even number of total moves between the two players. At the early stages of the tournament it was easy to track the total number of moves, because Topher could dictate play with little resistance. If he needed to extend the game, he simply added nonsense moves that his defeated opponent failed to notice. At the higher levels Topher was certainly capable of defeating his opponents, but managing the total moves became increasingly difficult. Thus, “regional champion.”
Over the past year, he had compiled a collection of exactly 200 permutations of the most likely attack and defense combinations that ended with an odd number of total moves. He studied them religiously in preparation for the upcoming NCA teen tournament. These were the combinations he must avoid at all costs. However, before Topher could compete in the tournament, he had to get through his senior year of high school.
This seemed rather straightforward. He was doing well in his classes, and his school was relatively without bullies. He had come to an agreement with those few offenders. They could be “members” of the Chess Club, giving them a free period, so long as they came in peace and came in pairs. Membership had held steady at 12 for the last two years. Everything seemed in perfect order until Margot Markov transferred to Marco Polo Regional. As a requirement of her transfer, she had to participate in an extracurricular activity. When she chose Chess Club, she was succinctly denied. Topher had no other prospective members, and was therefore unwilling to admit a thirteenth member.
While he had no actual authority to deny/accept membership, Margot Markov was not aware of this. She told her mother she was rejected, her mother threatened a sexism suit, and Margot became the thirteenth member the next day. As part of the “plea bargain,” the Principal insisted that Margot be offered an opportunity to represent the school at Sectionals. Because of his track record, both at the tournament and as Club President, Topher was able to negotiate a qualifying match between Margot and himself. A showdown.
Unfortunately for Topher, he was too distracted to count the total moves and found himself otherwise poised for defeat. Margot, a competent player, couldn’t quite figure out Topher’s seemingly weak tactics. She was hesitant to go for the kill. In the middle of the chaos, Topher played to a stalemate.
Epilogue: The stalemate resulted in Junior Oliver Frickman being sent to sectionals, but more importantly, it left the story short of 500 words by just one. This was fine with Topher. He had his high school diploma and an additional 12 free days in his summer. He spent all of them with Margot, whom, it turns out, doesn’t like tricycles, third wheels, three-tined forks, Neapolitan ice cream, or March. Topher didn’t know a lot about love, but he did like that it came in pairs.