Numbers game delivers for Vinny and his crew
Back in the bosom of his family again, Lady Luck deals a top hand for Vinny
When the SOS call to shoulder arms for The Black Knights came on Saturday evening, Vinny turned to Angie with a pleading air.
“I’ve gotta go, love. We’re a body shy and we’ll be fined for giving a walkover. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a couple of hours, and sober as a judge too, I promise.”
Angie glowered but then softened. “Go on then, and kick some ass while you’re at it,’ she said, planting a kiss on her husband’s jowly cheek.
Vinny reached for his coat. His chess mates needed him and he couldn’t let them down. It was, he suspected, a request Angie had been unlikely to reject, not after the biting terms of Vinny’s return to Mount Prospect Avenue which, he felt, made Germany’s first World War reparations look like a good deal.
As Angie laid down the rules, Vinny had nodded in silent agreement: no alcohol from Monday to Friday, no gambling on the nags until Christmas, and no more cheese puffs, were the more penal clauses in the Treaty of Clontarf.
Vinny had accepted the stipulations with fortitude, for he would have done anything to return to the bosom of his wife and children. The health scare over Oisín seemed to have knocked sense into the portly bus driver in terms of his priorities and he had come through the first week of his new tough-love regime better than he imagined though, privately, he was gasping for a night out with the lads.
He had just been about to fix himself a large gin and tonic when his phone buzzed with the 11th hour text from The Black Knights, a motley chess-playing crew, who used Foley’s lounge as their home.
The Knights played every other week from Halloween until March in the Dublin Pub Chess League (Division 3) and Vinny, whose knowledge of the game was modest, was occasionally asked to sub up when someone cried off.
Under the rules, each player got 30 minutes of game time. It meant tight duels couldn’t last longer than an hour, which allowed for post-game analysis over pints, the bit Vinny enjoyed most.
As he headed for Foley’s, Vinny rattled off the few chess strategies in his head, the opening four-move checkmates, which had never ever come off, the Sicilian Defence, when to Castle, and when not.
In golfing terms, he was a 28-handicap chess player, unlike Two-Mile Boris, who was a scratch player.
Two-Mile Boris, whose real name was Vadim, was from Volgograd but he had lived a bachelor life in Clontarf for 20 years and sat quietly every other night in the front bar, sipping pints and solving crosswords. He had been a child chess prodigy, but now, obese and shaven-headed, he played just for fun.
Two-Mile’s chess brilliance was aligned to an extraordinary numerical knowledge. Whenever Two-Mile joined the lads for a pint, he’d lob out some curious stat such as the numbers on a roulette wheel, 1 to 36, when added all together, coming to 666 ‘The Number of the Beast’.
The previous week, he startled the lads about a prime number 73,939,133 and how, if you removed the last digit from the right, each subsequent number remained a prime number – 7,393,913, 739,391, 73,939, 7,393, 739, 73, 7.