Monday, January 17, 2005

The Fan, Bryanston

Monday, January 17, 2005

Service: * *
Food: * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * *

Backgammon has started again!!! Yay! And we're in a classy new joint that Sophia discovered.

I'm playing Matt tonight, and he's one of the top two or three or four in the club. So I've only got a very narrow chance of beating him.

"Shirley," I say to my waitress, "please my I have the crumbed chicken strips?"

Just keeping up to scratch with my caricaturing. People sometimes ask me why I don't show my pics to the people I've drawn. My usual response is, "Cos I don't want to be beaten up by their boyfriends!"The management has very kindly allowed us to buy meals off their lunch menu. In our previous venue in Sandton, meals cost a fortune. Our club has twenty-four active players, and the venue we inhabit has a guaranteed clientele every Monday, their slowest night of the week.

Matt and I start playing. I lose the first game. Then I win one. Lose another. Win another. It's early days, so 2--2 isn't all that significant. But suddenly Matt starts wielding his key weapon -- excellent play. Thwack, swuhp, ngooop... I'm now 15--2 down. From nowhere!

The waitress brings my food, and I absent-mindedly start nibbling on it. Hang on, I think. What's this? "Excuse me, Shirley," I say. "This isn't what I ordered!" The manager is alert, and he comes and finds out what's gone wrong. I say, "It must be your kitchen staff not being familiar with the lunch menu." He agrees, apologises, takes the food away to be replaced by crumbed chicken strips, not soggy ones in sauce.

I take a deep breath. It's time to dig deep into my resources and start wielding my key weapon -- the mindfuck. And I steadily nail Matt down, driving concrete nails through his feet into the floor. This boy's suffering, man! The score is now 17--15 to me!!! Yeah! That's what I call backgammon!

We're near the end of a game, and he's taken off eight pieces, but we've got a major reversal. I've got him on the bar with an almost sealed board. We've got six spectators, and they all maintain stony faces when I smash the doubling cube down on Matt's side of the board. technically, this is a blunder of the highest order on my part. All I have to do is survive this game, and I'm a dead cert to win the entire match to twenty-one points. Even if I lose this particular game, the score will be 17--16, which is easily winnable.

So I make the blunder. But it's a carefully crafted psychological manoeuvre. I'm forcing Matt to sweat. And I want him to think that he's seriously misread his position. I want him to think that if he loses this game with the cube on two, I'll be 19 points to his 16, which makes my position insurmountable.

And it almost works. His finger keeps twitching above the cube, and he spends at least two minutes evaluating his position. But then my gamble fails. He takes the cube. I play, and I close my board. And he does the one thing I wanted him not to do. He offers me the cube on four.

Now this is terrible for me. Because if I TAKE the thing, we're playing for match. If I win, it's over, and I'm the winner. If he wins a normal game, it's 19--17 to him. If he gammons me, he wins.

If I drop, we go to 17--17, and because he's a better player than me, it puts me in a very bad position.

So I take. And we throw our dice. And it goes right to the wire, and Matt beats me. To death.

But hey, it's my first match of the year, and it was brilliant play from both of us. And I am a magnanimous loser. Thanks for the match, Matt! You bastard.

At least the crumbed chicken turned out to be good. But it seems as though the waiters here at the Fan have been trained by someone who believes that slowness means goodness. Maybe they'll improve once they understand our foibles.

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