Monday, February 13, 2012

A Vicarious Vindication

Revenge is sweet! Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m not talking about forcing someone out a second-story window for breaking your stuff or anything. Although, that can be quite therapeutic. (In my defense, I was ten years old and I didn’t actually push him – he jumped. There may have been some discussion about his only other option being to be propelled headfirst and other contributing factors – still, it was his choice.)

Back to my story. The kind of revenge I’m referring to is more a feeling of validation. An Aha! I win moment.

Age 15. High school. A chess tournament. The tournament included several Christian schools in the area and was held in a neighboring town. I made it to the final round – and lost. The next year, I entered again. This time I beat the guy I’d lost to the year before but then; I lost to another kid – again, in the final round. Two years, two tournaments, two different opponents, but the same result. Then, I learned that the administrator of the school, which hosted the tournament, was some kind of chess genius. Mr. Winters, though at the time I didn’t know his name. Both kids I’d lost to were his students.

I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge so the next year, my last year of high school, I entered the tournament again. This time, I was on a roll. I beat both of the guys who had won the previous years! But, as they say, history repeats itself; I lost in the final round. Once again, the winner was a student of Mr. Winters.

Three years I’d entered the tournament and three years I’d come in second. Three red ribbons. Ribbons that were promptly stuffed into a drawer, never to be displayed. To some, second place might be a fine achievement, to me; it meant I was the first loser. (Yes, I have a slight competitive nature). With no more chances to redeem myself, I tried to look on the bright side – I had at some point over the three years beaten all three winners. In fact, I’d beaten each of them twice. That fact was of little comfort – all three of them had a blue ribbon while mine were red. But, that’s not the end of the story.

Fast forward nearly thirty years. My wife and I enrolled our son in a private Christian school for his last two years of high school. When we met the principal, I thought he looked familiar but couldn’t quite place him. After some discussion, he revealed he’d just recently moved to our town, having spent the last several years as the administrator of a school in another town – the town where I’d gone for the chess tournaments. Then, I knew him. Sitting across the desk was the guy responsible for my red ribbons! (Yeah, I know others were responsible too - namely, me and the three kids I’d lost to). My first instinct was to challenge him to a chess match right then and there – just get it over with. But, I managed to control the urge, though I did tell him who I was. And yes, he remembered me. I asked if he still planned to hold chess tournaments. He said he did. I said nothing but inside I was elated!

I’d taught my son to play chess years earlier – and he was pretty good. He knew the story of my three red ribbons and finding out who his new principal was sparked his own competitive spirit. He entered the tournament that year and did well. Then, deja vu – he came in second.

The following year, his senior year of high school, he once more entered the chess tournament. And again, he made it to the final round. This was it. One last chance. Obviously, he won the game or I wouldn’t be writing about it. I think I was more excited about it than he was. I know what you’re thinking – it wasn’t me that won. Ah, but it was. Vicariously though it may have been.

Mr. Winters told the story at my son’s graduation and after almost thirty years, I felt vindicated. Revenge is sweet! Thanks, Colter.

Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and 9 books. Over My Dead Body, and The Journey, his latest books, are available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®, Kobo, Diesel Books, and Smashwords. For more information, visit See Bruce’s Amazon Author Page at or view his Smashwords Profile at

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