‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

12/24/2003 – "...my friends had all gone, Not a chess piece was stirring, I stifled a yawn." But then, suddenly, eight ghostly GMs appear, and out in the sky a voice calls through the gloom "Happy Christmas, keep studying, you might improve soon." Christopher Willard of Montreal, Canada, sent us this Christmas Eve poem.

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Christopher Willard

'Twas the night before Christmas, my friends had all gone
Not a chess piece was stirring, I stifled a yawn.
I looked at the pieces, I tried and I planned
The problem still stumped me, no end was at hand.

Most patzers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of brilliancies danced in their heads;
I sat back in my chair and I sipped on my drink
And just settled in for a heck of a think.

When out on the lawn there arose such a fight
I sprang from the board, I threw on the light.
I ran out the door and heard Russian and Dutch
And cussing and swearing, I can’t repeat much.

The white light and shadows were squares on the snow.
The shrubs stood like pieces within the moons glow.
I took off my glasses and wiped at my lens,
A masterful board, and eight ghostly GM’s.

With a little old player, so lively and dwarfy
I knew in a moment it must be Paul Morphy.
More rapid than Fritzy analysis came,
And he screamed, and he yelled, and he called moves by name,

"Now, Knight to f6 and the Queen to d4
there are threats of a knight fork and possibly more!
Block with pawns if you can, I have rooks I can call
I’ll crash away, smash away, capture them all

As dry scoresheets all crumpled and marked with a loss
Are carried in pockets and finally tossed
The pieces were tumbling as if moved by Fates
I think he could visualize mind bending mates.

In an instant were shoutings and comments quite snide
And objections of GM’s who stood on the side.
Capablanca and Lakser, Alekhine, Tal
New Attacks and defenses, they suggested them all.

From the fray rose a man fully bearded and plump
With little bow tie and a longcoat all frump.
On a bundle of papers held close to his vest
Were scrawled variations he thought would be best.

His eyes -- how they focused! His brow somewhat dull,
His nose like a boxer's, a face like a bull.
He stroked the thick hair that surrounded his chin
and started to speak while suppressing a grin,

“The unsound combination, no matter how showy
it fills me with horror,” he said somewhat snowy.
He brushed off the flakes from his thick overcoat
And proceeded to show how the pawn would promote.

Now the board it rose up and it flew out of sight
And the spectral GM’s followed into the night.
I crawled back to my board, the position remained
The solution no clearer, my thinking still strained.

Then my five year old son, woken up by the row
walked into the den with his stuffed bear in tow.
He glanced at the board and said Queen sac right there
I’d missed the most simple, a win fair and square

I shook my head sadly, peered under the tree,
I hoped that a chess book was wrapped there for me.
And out in the sky a voice called through the gloom
Happy Christmas, keep studying, you might improve soon.

You can find the original poem by Clement Moore at this Brown University site

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