Acoustic Cafe, Newington Green
by H.P. Seuss
"Now, miliy moi", said Peshka, proferring two clenched fists, "which is it to be?"
The café was pale amber, with a Mediterranean air and a mercifully unfulfilled promise of live music. It reminded Peshka of Aleppo, site of his famous Philidor rebuttal in '56. He insisted that I wheel him outdoors to take the plein air, though there was not, in truth, a great deal of air to take on that bright white day.
I nodded at his right hand, which revealed an ivory pawn. "White you are", he said, his legs twitching under a tartan shroud.
A waitress hovered. Knight took coffee; king took tea ("black or white?" — indeed!). Both took Full English. Time took toll. We launched into a perfunctory 1) e4 e5, 2) Nf3 d6, 3) Bc4 Nf6? 4) Ng4!
The waitress shimmered back with our plates. The mushrooms were pawns, weak and many, nimble supporters of bishop bacon and knight banger. The bread was queen, precious and everywhere. The egg was a poached king, fresh and kindly. The beans, sequestered in a separate dish (have the chefs of N16 taken the hint?), were fragrant rooks, key endgame players. The tomato was a draughtsman, a boy in a game of men. The whole was quirky but satisfying.
Play continued: 4)... d5 (the tempo was mine) 5) exd5 Bc5 (prompting a Queen's side castle from me later) and 6) b3 (for the fianchetto). We exchanged queens. My bishop held his king in a mortal grip. I feared for faded Peshka, who sighed throughout, reminiscing about the Baden-Baden bienniale of '37, site of his infamous Gambian gambit.
But just as I was mopping up the endgame, Peshka sprung a trap so fiendishly intricate, so perfectly simple, I nearly choked on my knight. Bean took bacon, mushrooms were outflanked, my egg was swamped. "Checkmate", said Peshka.
I looked up — and he was gone.