Game of Thrones

During the glorious heyday of the late Republic and the early Empire, no event was more important to the lifeblood of Rome than the gladiatorial games.  The feverish excitement of the build-up to the tournament would whip the eternal city into a state of near ecstasy as fans would throng the streets, chanting the names of their hero-warriors and scratching passionate testimonials into the very bricks of the Colosseum.  So, too, is it at St. Conleth’s when the Annual Chess Tournament reaches its later stages.  In mid-May, lunchtime sales in the canteen fall away to nothing as those last few contenders stride through the hallways of the school confidently heading for the designated arena of doom, followed by wannabes, fawning followers and a few slightly-flushed Fifth Year female fans.  The ‘Circuses’ had their wealthy patrician backers who paid for everything and decided the fate of the defeated combatants: our chess tournament has Ms. NíAonghusa, who runs the event with a firm but kindly hand, dispensing decisions on en passant and J’adoube with equal parts grit and grace.  And the gladiators themselves?  Where once a Samnite or Thracian strode with short swords and brave determination, now walks students from all years, armed with only their razor logic and, perhaps, a calculator watch.  Miki had dispatched brother Mati in the Quarters (Oh, the drama in the Remi household!) and then eliminated Oisín Dowling in one Semi.  Suyash Patidar narrowly edged Keane Acosta in the other.  (That means we had First, Second, Fourth and Sixth Years as the last four fighters, and Polish and Indian, as well as Irish, heritages represented: a diversity which Marcus Aurelius would have applauded!)   The Final itself was an intense affair, with many students packed silently into Room 5 and even more peering in from the yard.  It way tight all the way through, but when Suyash somehow nabbed Miki’s regenerated Queen, the writing was on the wall: not defeat itself, but a stalemate and decision based on the time clocks.  The boys feverishly finished the battle, with arms flailing from piece to clock quicker than the eye, but in the end Miki was a few seconds short and Suyash had retained his throne.  A game of kings indeed!