Club-2700 – a one-act play

by ChessBase
4/4/2005 – "We writers like to seek inspiration in the strangest places," wrote Alex Shternshain of Ottawa, Canada. "But I bet no writer has ever found his inspiration in the FIDE rating list – until now." Alex submitted a one-act play titled "Club-2700", suggesting Sandra Bullock for Caissa and R2D2 for Deep Blue. Now all we need is to find a producer.

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A one-act play
by Alex Shternshain, 2005


We're in a poorly-lit clubhouse, where, on a small elevated stage, a lady is fiddling with a microphone. This is CAISSA, the muse of chess. She looks almost, but not quite, like the secret lover Kirsan Ilyumzhinov never had. Above Caissa's head, a colorful banner proclaims "Welcome to Club-2700!" In front of her, there are several empty chairs.

CAISSA: Testing, testing, knight cee three, testing.

Not sure if the mike's working, she continues her fiddling. One by one, some men and one lady quietly enter the room. Each of them takes a seat on one of the chairs, facing Caissa. We recognize those people – they are the nineteen world's top chessplayers: Kasparov, Anand, Topalov, Leko, Kramnik, Adams, Polgar, Bacrot, Svidler, Grischuk, Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Shirov, Gelfand, Bareev, Dreev, Akopian, Bologan and Kamsky.

Soon, only one free chair remains. Everyone seem eager to start. While Caissa is still fiddling with the mike, Polgar attempts to show off her baby photos. Most react with disdain, only Shirov seems interested.

CAISSA: Hello, hello, is this thing on?

All nod.

CAISSA: Hello. I would like to welcome all of you to the quarter-annual meeting of Club-2700. Please join me in warm congratulations to our new members Vladimir Akopian and Viorel Bologan.

All applaud, formally and without much enthusiasm. Akopian and Bologan stand up. We can now see Akopian is wearing a Petrosian T-shirt.

LEKO: Nice T-shirt, man. Really nice of you to acknowledge the patriarch of Armenian chess this way. Very tasteful.

AKOPIAN: Check out the back.

He turns around, and we can see that the back of his T-shirt says "But was he ever rated 2700? I don't think so!"

LEKO: Yuck. I stand corrected.

CAISSA: Also, let's say hello to our returning members Judit Polgar, Boris Gelfand and Gata Kamsky.

Another round of applauses, this time a bit louder, rolls around the room. The three stand up. Kamsky is wearing a suit that went out of fashion twenty years ago. Gelfand has a "Kaddafi Sucks" T-shirt. Polgar is clad in a dark pinstripe powersuit.

CAISSA: Judit, you look great! Have you been exercising?

POLGAR: Just some post-birth Pilates.

CAISSA: Pilates on, sis! I'd also like to note with sadness, the departure, hopefully a temporary one, of our former member Ruslan Ponomariov.

Ivanchuk can't help but snicker at the mention of the last name.

CAISSA: Also, we mourn the continued absence of former member Robert Fischer

SVIDLER: Currently known as Prisoner number 2780!

Some laugh at the joke, others cringe, trying not to look at the empty chair. Grischuk and Morozevich high-five Svidler.

CAISSA: Kids, please stop it, or I'll be forced to sit you apart. There, that's better. Now, we are at record attendance here today – no less than nineteen people. Although, given the frivolous behavior of some of our members, I cannot guarantee all of you will be here for our next meeting. Yes, Sasha, I'm looking at you ...

MOROZEVICH: Sorry. Art demands sacrifices.

CAISSA: Yes, but it's always better to sacrifice your opponent's pieces, isn't it... And you, Gata – this time, you earned your ticket by a hairline, but one more draw against a lesser player – and let's just say your invitation could get lost in the mail.

KAMSKY: I'm just a bit rusty, that's all. I'll show those kids who's the boss yet!

CAISSA: And what's that I hear from Garry Kimovich? Is this really your last meeting with us?

KASPAROV: Yes, it is. I'm retiring to new, wider battlefields.

ANAND: Well, if those battlefields ever become too wide for your taste, remember to look us up. If you can still remember how a knight moves, that is.

CAISSA: Well, let's get to the matters at hand. I have here your motions and suggestions (holds some papers)

BOOM! BOOM! A loud noise makes all heads turn toward the back of the room.

CAISSA: What's that? Grischuk, go and find out who's knocking.


CAISSA: Because you're the youngest.

DREEV: I'm telling you, these kids have no respect.

BOLOGAN: Yeah, I remember back in my day ...

DREEV: Shut up, newbie.


Grudgingly, Grischuk walks to the back. Adams nudges Kamsky, points at the empty chair. Could it be that...? A moment of tense silence, and then -Grischuk returns, together with a shy-looking young man.

GRISCHUK: This is Levon Aronian, he's asking if he can just sit with us. Says he won't cause any trouble... he's just seven points shy anyway.

CAISSA: What? Heaven forbid, no! Which part of "twenty-seven-hundred" did you not understand, Levon?

Aronian leaves, shoulders slumped. As he passes next to Bareev, the latter pats him on the back in encouragement.

BAREEV: Take it easy, man. I'm sure you'll make it to the next meeting.

ARONIAN: If you have a tournament and need an even number of players, will you give me a call?

BAREEV: Sure thing, Lev.

Somewhat encouraged, Aronian leaves.

CAISSA: Okay. The first item on the agenda...

BOOM! BOOM! Someone's banging on the door again. All eyes on empty chair again.

GRISCHUK: Someone else should go this time.

ANAND: All right, I'll go.

He walks to the back.

KASPAROV: I told you he's too nice to ever become world champion.

SHIROV: Um, Garry, he WAS the world champion?

Kasparov snorts indignantly at this remark and turns away from Shirov. Anand returns, together with PONOMARIOV. Ivanchuk cringes visibly.

PONOMARIOV: Hey guys, am I late? (Looks around, realizes something isn't right) Is this 'Former World Champions'?

CAISSA: No, this is the 2700. FWC is on Wednesday. This one's gonna be good, I heard Spassky wants to do a big homecoming party for Fischer.

PONOMARIOV: Sign me up!

He leaves.

ADAMS: Only twenty-one, and already an 'ex' – that's sad.

IVANCHUK: The teen-has-been. He has a great future behind him, you know.

KASPAROV: Hey, the has-beens meet on Wednesday, should Vishy be there? (laughs)

ANAND: Hey, Garry, shouldn't YOU be there?

Kasparov snorts and turns away from him.

CAISSA: Ok. Finally, first item on the agenda. (reads from paper) "We really need a women's bathroom here. I cannot do it in the sink".

POLGAR: You didn't HAVE to read the part about the sink out loud. That was supposed to be between us ladies.

CAISSA: Well, muses don't go to the bathroom, and while you were gone I kinda forgot we were gender-diverse. But I promise we'll have full sanitary facilities for the next meeting – complete with a breast-feeding room. Ooops, I guess I shouldn't have said that out loud too. Next on the agenda (reads) "Motion to change Club-2700 to Club-2800".

All but Kasparov burst into laughter.

TOPALOV: Very subtle, Garry!

ADAMS: He wants to be alone with you, Caissa!

MOROZEVICH: Garry and Caissa sitting in a tree ...

KAMSKY: K-i-s-s-i-n-g!

Kasparov turns red as tomato.

KASPAROV: Hey, I just want to give you something to aspire to!

KRAMNIK: I don't think it's a good idea. If we rename this club, it'll always be one blunder away from being completely empty. I mean, if Tseshkovsky found axb5 in your game, you wouldn't be talking about 2800, would you, Garry?

KASPAROV: Nonsense! I analyzed all the lines mathematically. There was no win for black!

DREEV: Surely, you mean, 'there was no win for white'? You were playing black, remember, Garry?

KASPAROV: Yes, yes, that's what I meant. There was no win for white. Exactly.

GELFAND: Can we toss this motion aside and move to the next item?

All hum in agreement.

KASPAROV: I am Gulliver tied up by Lilliputs. Club-2750? No?

CAISSA: Next item is (reads) "Svidler should spell his first name P-i-o-t-r"

All but Leko roll their eyes and groan.

TOPALOV: Can we get to discuss something that's actually important?

LEKO: What? This is not important? Okay, probably it's not important. But this is the proper Cyrillic spelling, and I don't see why we should have two Peters.

MOROZEVICH: Oh, deal with it. We have two Alexanders, and we don't complain.

GRISCHUK: Right on, man.

AKOPIAN: Hey, now we have two Vladimirs too!

KRAMNIK: (rolls eyes) What are the odds...

CAISSA: Fine. Motion tentatively denied. Mr. Svidler may change the spelling of his name at his discretion.

SVIDLER: Yeah, right. When pigs have wings. Can we move on, please?

CAISSA: Next item (reads) "All participants of Tripoli World Championship – and I use the words 'world' and 'championship' very loosely – must parade in their underwear, screaming 'We lost to a guy whose name we can't even pronounce'".

TOPALOV: You're so not funny, Boris.

ADAMS: So Kaddafi doesn't like you, Boris. Get over it.

GELFAND: It's a matter of principle! The world championship should be open to everyone!

SHIROV: Or, according to Kasparov, it should be open for him and one opponent, whom he shall hand-pick himself.

CAISSA: Stop it, please. I admit, Boris got a point there. I'll tell you what, I'll issue a press-release condemning FIDE's behavior on the matter of Tripoli... as well as on any other matter, I guess. But parading in underwear is a bit too extreme. Although you gotta admit it was a little bit funny, the way this little Uzbek whooped you all...

Ivanchuk, Adams, Topalov and Grischuk lower their heads, averting Gelfand's triumphant gaze.

GELFAND: Okay, can they parade in their pajamas?


GELFAND: Suit and pajama bottoms, like Michael Jackson?

CAISSA: Motion denied. Next item (reads) "Hold meetings in French"... what the heck... Etienne, I need to warn you, you are still new with us, and such exuberant demands will not be tolerated.

BACROT: (Hyper-exaggerated French accent) Zere iz nothing exuberant about zees! Even FIDE haz recognized French az its official language!

TOPALOV: Second official language!

BACROT: Well, we can have a meeting in French once in a while, I am sure it won't harm anyone! I'm sure everyone here can understand French, right?

Everyone is dead silent.

BACROT: Come on, people ... It's a vibrant language? Philidor?

Everyone start talking to Bacrot angrily in their own languages. His weak attempts are drowned by a torrent of Russian, English, Hungarian, and other languages. Caissa taps on the microphone to restore order, but no one will listen. Finally, she raises the volume to the max and barks into the mike.


Everyone fall dead silent again.

CAISSA: That's better. I will pretend none of this ever happened, and we'll move on. Finally, we have come to the last item on the agenda... For you, Etienne, that would be zee agenda.

KRAMNIK: Same as each time?


SHIROV: I really hate this part.

BOLOGAN: What? Which part? What's going on?

KRAMNIK: You'll see in a minute.

With a sharp motion, Caissa parts a curtain behind her, revealing another room. There, stands a huge metal box, multicolored lights flickering on its panels. The box is surrounded by chess tables.

BOLOGAN: Isn't that Deep Blue? I thought it was disassembled.

CAISSA: Disassembled, then rebuilt. This is the million-processor version.

AKOPIAN: So he ... it ... will play a tournament with us or what?

CAISSA: Not a tournament. It'll give you a simul. And please, don't embarrass me too much, because last time was really pathetic. Try to make at least four or five draws, is it really too much to ask for?

IVANCHUK: Oh my. We'll need all the help we can get.

BAREEV: I'll go look for Aronian. Who knows, maybe he's still waiting outside.

Before Bareev can even take a step, Aronian bursts into the room. Apparently, he's been listening at the door.

ARONIAN: Can I play too? Please!?

KASPAROV: All right. But don't let it go to your head. You're a probationary member.

All sit at the tables around Deep Blue, adjust their pieces and get ready to play. Deep Blue beeps with anticipation and its panel lights blink excitedly.


Alex Shternshain is a 36-year old Electronic Engineer from Canada who likes to take a temporary breaks from writing technical specifications in favor of SF/F stories. Much like Tolkien, most of his ideas are born while telling bedside stories to his two children. Here endeth the resemblance.

Stories by Alex Shternshain

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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